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UC Merced student commencement speaker had to deal with ‘imposter syndrome’

A first-generation Mexican American college student, Kimberly Farias experienced imposter syndrome – when people feel like a fraud or a phony and doubting their abilities – during college.

Farias didn’t know what imposter syndrome was before college and didn’t have anybody at home to tell her, “’Hey, this is what, you know, what’s going on,’” she said.

Because of her experience, Farias focused her thesis at UC Merced on this topic.

“It’s something that I think people need to know what it is and how to find different resources,” said Farias.

Farias, a double major in political science and psychology, joined hundreds of Bobcats graduating Sunday (May 14) morning from UC Merced’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.

Commencement speaker Kimberly Farias, a first-generation Mexican American college student, on May 11 during speech rehearsal at UC Merced.
Commencement speaker Kimberly Farias, a first-generation Mexican American college student, on May 11 during speech rehearsal at UC Merced.

Farias, who also double minored in writing studies and community research and service, was the student commencement speaker.

Tapped as a commencement speaker as a first-gen student, she said, is a “tremendous privilege.”

Her main message for fellow graduates, Farias said, is “letting them know that whatever they put their mind to, they can accomplish.”

She talks about her “why” in her speech, which is her purpose that pushes her and drives her every day – her mom, family, siblings, being that role model for them.

Farias, born in Van Nuys the oldest of four siblings, grew up in Arizona before her family moved back to California during her senior year of high school.

She graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Fremont in 2018 before her family relocated to Planada and then Chowchilla.

Farias’ mother is from Jalisco, México; her father is from Colima, México. Neither of them finished high school or went to college.

The 23-year-old Farias, who is fluent in Spanish, had to take a gap year from college when her financial aid was eliminated because she was considered an out-of-state student.

Commencement speaker Kimberly Farias, a first-generation Mexican American college student and a double major in political science and psychology, joined hundreds of Bobcats graduating Sunday (May 14) morning from UC Merced’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.
Commencement speaker Kimberly Farias, a first-generation Mexican American college student and a double major in political science and psychology, joined hundreds of Bobcats graduating Sunday (May 14) morning from UC Merced’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.

While she was sad and upset about her college plans being put on hold for a year, Farias worked during that time while waiting to attend UC Merced.

“When you’re ready and prepared to go to college and then you can’t go,” Farias said of the frustration of that experience. “But it’s fine, things happen for a reason.”

She has been living on campus for the last two years of her college career since coming back from COVID working as lead resident assistant of four residence halls for the university’s resident education.

Pursuing a PH.D and juris doctor degrees

Farias wants to pursue a Ph.D. in political science and is considering attending law school.

Her goal is to become an immigration lawyer and a political science professor.

Farias said living in Arizona gave her a lesson on how politics impacted not only on her own parents but family members and the community.

Seeing those injustices inspired Farias to become a voice for not only her community but for underrepresented and minority communities.

“So that’s like one of the reasons why I think I’ve always, like, felt that I really want to be an immigration lawyer just to be able to give back and serve my people,” Farias said.

Last semester Farias interned for the External Affair Office of Gov. Gavin Newson as part of the Maddy Legislative Internship Programs.

Topics closes to her heart

Farias’ political science thesis focused on the zero-tolerance immigration policy and the impact that it had on migrant children’s well-being during with the Trump administration when children were separated from their families.

“I focused on the topic because I feel like it was a policy that impacted a lot of people, not only families, but children specifically,” Farias said. “It was a topic that was close to my heart, living in Arizona, really, really close to the border.”

Farias said it was important to bring awareness to how a policy can impact the lives of many people.

“It impacted a lot of kids. A lot of kids, unfortunately to this point, haven’t been reunited with their family, and it’s a mistake that was made by a specific administration,” Farias said.

For her psychology thesis, Farias focused on the impact that metaphors have on first-generation college students who experience imposter syndrome.

For her psychology thesis, Commencement speaker Kimberly Farias, a first-generation Mexican American college student and a double major in political science and psychology, focused on the impact that metaphors have on first-generation college students who experience imposter syndrome.
For her psychology thesis, Commencement speaker Kimberly Farias, a first-generation Mexican American college student and a double major in political science and psychology, focused on the impact that metaphors have on first-generation college students who experience imposter syndrome.

“UC Merced is majority first-generation college students, 75% of Merced is actually first gen,” Farias said.

Her thesis looked at whether first generation college students are more likely to experience imposter syndrome, and if they do, what can be done to close the gap and what resources the college can provide to them.

“Because unfortunately a lot of first gen, a lot of people of color, a lot of women specifically, they experience imposter syndrome,” said Farias who conducted a survey of 250 students.

Farias said her thesis topics are relevant to the Central Valley because majority of Central Valley are Hispanic, Latinos, agriculture workers.

She also received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Center and had two of her research papers published in the Undergraduate Research Journal at UC Merced.

Farias has also been able to be a presenter at different conferences about her research, talking about her psychology thesis on first-generation college students who experience imposter syndrome.

Commencement speaker Kimberly Farias, a first-generation Mexican American college student, on May 11 during speech rehearsal at UC Merced.
Commencement speaker Kimberly Farias, a first-generation Mexican American college student, on May 11 during speech rehearsal at UC Merced.

Kimberly Farias’ favorites

Book: “I like poetry. I have research papers that I like. The book is ‘I’m not your perfect Mexican daughter’ I read it in high school. I really liked it.”.

Food/meal: “I like chiles rellenos with arroz rojo. My favorite for sure.”

Place to visit: “The Beach.”

Music to listen to: “I like Spanish music. Well, I like any type of genre. I do listen to a lot of you know, Banda, like Hispanic Mexican music. I like Camilo, I like. I love I love Spanish music for sure.”

Movie: “’Monsters, Inc.’”

Hobby: “I like to read, hike and just like to be out in nature for sure.”

Best advice ever received: “I do talk about it in my speech, it’s in Spanish. ‘Tu educación es la unica cosa que nadie te puede quitar.’ So, it’s just like your education is the only thing that nobody will ever be able to take away from you. And it’s something that my mom has always told me. So I think that was the big one.”

Commencement speaker Kimberly Farias, a first-generation Mexican American college student and a double major in political science and psychology, joined hundreds of Bobcats graduating Sunday (May 14) morning from UC Merced’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.
Commencement speaker Kimberly Farias, a first-generation Mexican American college student and a double major in political science and psychology, joined hundreds of Bobcats graduating Sunday (May 14) morning from UC Merced’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.