For most students at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), excelling academically and achieving all their goals sounds like a dream scenario. However, for biological sciences major Britanny Duong, dreams aren’t always as they seem:

“At the beginning of my first year, I was extremely nervous about my classes because of the rigor that is associated with biological sciences courses. Giving it my all, I performed and adjusted well, surpassing any academic goals I had set for myself. However, I didn’t feel accomplished and still worriedI was experiencing impostor syndrome, but I didn’t know it.” 

Impostor syndrome refers to a persistent doubt in one’s accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud and feeling unworthy of the success one has achieved. While Britanny tried to shake this nagging feeling of unworthiness, it continued to plague her until she finally sought help by sharing her thoughts and experiences.

It was through discussions with Student Success Initiatives (SSI) counselor Kathy Dong that Britanny realized she was struggling with impostor syndrome—a common issue among college students. Britanny recalls how Kathy comforted her and offered reassurance that her success was in fact the result of hard work and perseverance.

“One of the most impactful things she told me is that it’s okay to acknowledge your accomplishments because they are a reflection of how far you have come,” Britanny remembers. “It is a big part of how you grow more comfortable with who you are.”

According to Britanny, SSI has played a vital role in both her educational and personal development. Britanny first discovered SSI before her freshman year through its Summer Bridge program. While her sister had previously attended Summer Bridge and spoke positively about her experience, Britanny learned more about the program when she attended Celebrate UCI during her senior year of high school.

After stopping by the SSI booth at the event and learning how SSI supports UCI students, Britanny was eager to apply for Summer Bridge.

Summer Bridge offers incoming freshmen the chance to acclimate to campus life, build meaningful social connections, and start working towards their degrees. Typically, SSI Summer Bridge invites new students to live on campus while attending Summer Session classes and receiving personalized guidance from SSI staff. While Summer Bridge 2020 will be held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program remains dedicated to building community among its participants and assisting them with their first-year transition to academic life at UCI.

Britanny explains that as a Summer Bridge Scholar, she was able to make a smoother transition to university life. Not only did the program help her adjust to the academic pace at UCI, but it also connected her with other students, faculty and staff. Britanny says, “Summer Bridge helped me get a jumpstart on my academic career while also giving me a community of support before my first year at UCI even began.”

Additionally, Summer Bridge introduced Britanny to Kathy, who coordinates the program and offers counseling to Summer Bridge Scholars. While Britanny has relied on Kathy for help with her personal struggles, she notes that Kathy and the entire SSI team also provide support in other areas. She says, “They offer me personalized guidance, peer mentoring, scholarships, workshops and community-building opportunities. The SSI office naturally became a home to me, a place where I could feel safe and understood.”

Once Summer Bridge ended and her freshman year officially began, Britanny wanted to continue her involvement with SSI. She enrolled in TRIO Scholars, a federally funded program that offers specialized assistance to low-income students, first-generation students, and students with disabilities. TRIO Scholars aims to improve the educational outcomes of these student populations through academic, social, personal and career advising and support from orientation until graduation.

For Britanny, SSI’s biggest impact has been helping her build her self-confidence. “Being part of SSI programs during my freshman year made a huge impact on how I view my potential to grow and succeed in college,” she explains. “I can always count on my Summer Bridge and TRIO family to be my number one supporters. They listen to my struggles and help me see things in a different perspective.”

Now, armed with a stronger belief in herself and her potential, Britanny is eager to take steps towards future successeven if that requires her to explore and take some risks. 

“I am still in the process of looking into different fields in the professional world,” Britanny explains. “Currently, I am a biological sciences major, but I plan to change my major to psychology; I think this major aligns more with my interests while still focusing on the science that is intertwined in psychology.”

No matter what Britanny decides to pursue, she knows that she can rely on her SSI family. “SSI acknowledges my struggles as a student and believes I have the potential to succeed now and in the future.”

Are you a UCI student interested in learning more about SSI and the many programs, services, and resources it offers? Then visit their website here.