Name: Sebastián Pérez
Hometown: The Bronx, New York. Best Borough in the city. Special shout out to Co-op-City!
What you’re doing at Yale: 2nd year doctoral candidate in American Studies
Why are you working as a GA?
The first year of graduate school can be quite disorienting. Readjusting to academic life, settling down in a new location, and finding a supportive community can be challenging and daunting. As a former Yale undergraduate (Class of 2010) returning to the same department(s) in which I completed my undergraduate degree, I initially strived to discover aspects of Yale I had not previously considered, to create a new, distinctive Yale experience as a graduate student. As the year progressed, I felt alienated from my community and quite lost. I realized that I had made a silly decision to create “a new experience at Yale.”
The Latino/a community and the support networks of my friends at La Casa essentially sustained me and helped me survive my undergraduate time at Yale. I realized that I needed a stronger sense of community, to forge bonds not only with current undergraduates, but also graduate students across disciplines to contribute to the life and well being of the Yale Latino/a community. When I attended La Casa events during the last year, I noticed a vibrant, exciting, and passionate undergraduate community, one that reminded me of my own class. To be able to support these students through my work as a graduate assistant would provide me with opportunities to share my knowledge and experiences with students, to serve as a mentor and supportive force who intimately knows of the struggles Latinos/as face and the success we can achieve at Yale. It has been both personally rewarding and challenging to serve in this capacity, to truly be accountable to a community that provided so much for me throughout my time at Yale.
Why do you think it’s important to have cultural centers?
Cultural centers serve significant and various roles. First and foremost, they function to support and facilitate communication between students who share similar cultural and ethnic backgrounds. They serve as valuable spaces in which to build and shape community, offering critical venues for meetings, discussions, cultural events while providing study space for students to work and collaborate. More than simply culturally specific and inflected physical spaces, cultural centers are a home away from home for many students looking to find shared interests and experiences based on race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality. The lives of the centers take the shape of the intellectual and cultural interests of students that populate and work in their galleries and meeting rooms, providing a living testament to the importance and centrality of communities of color at this university and their potential to continue shaping its development and growth.
What advice do you have for undergraduate students?
My advice to undergraduates is simple: love, believe in, and trust yourself. I know that may sound somewhat flowery or overly emotional, but the rigor of Yale can really lead you to question the validity of your presence on this campus. Questions such as “Am I smart enough to be here?” or “Do I deserve this opportunity considering the (potential) struggles of my family and community?” can be mentally debilitating and tough to answer. Trust that you are here for a reason, that your intellect and spirit are what this university and community desperately needs. Despite the challenges be they academic or social, your ability to take care of yourself, focus on your work, and contribute to the life of your communities will be what sustain you throughout your time here. To that end, FRIENDS and FAMILY are critically important. Call home. Care for your relationships. I found my family here. I cried, danced, laughed, wrote, performed, cooked, and lived with such wonderful individuals that have allowed me to become the person I am today.
What’s your favorite part about Yale?
My favorite part about Yale…now that is tough to pinpoint. Yale as a physical space with all its gorgeous architecture and courtyards ad libraries, etc. did really matter much to me to be quite honest. What I will always remember and hold dear to my heart are the memories of the astounding people I was able to grow with and learn from. Events like the first Oye Show or the first Sabrosura performance (in SSS! haha) or those nights spent in long conversations with sutiemates discussing everything from our lives to who was best at FIFA are the most valuable things I carry with me. My friends were and are my favorite part about Yale. And now that I’m a GA I get to partake and share in the lives of a truly unique and special group of students who continually give me life, make me laugh, and make this place home again.
Any fun facts?
Fun facts…I began crossfit 3 months ago and absolutely love it! I’m an only child, which is why I consider everyone at La Casa a future brother or sister :). When I get bored or tired of reading, I throw on some salsa, bachata, or merengue and dance in my room. My favorite novels (Top 5) are Watership Down, Cloud Atlas, Drown, Dune, and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.