I am Gabriel Rivera, born in a pocket of Guatemala City, a city that engaged me and numbed me in many different ways. I was lucky enough to go to school by bus when growing up, rather than having to walk through the city’s unsafe streets, and my parents would make me realize this disparity from a young age. Being grateful for my privilege was a way of thinking about my context in a useful way, but I was numbed by not having a way of making my daily life part of a solution to the poverty that I witnessed. My identity was created around these realizations of isolation, and to further this confusion, my family would have a yearly trip to Colombia, where my extended family lives.
I eventually got to United World College Costa Rica, where my activities and my thoughts were slowly filled with meaning. UWC was a radical change in the way that I would approach all of my activities. Many of my hobbies I would normally do by myself, and now they were group activities. It was great to see that my peers would be striving for the same goal while creating a community that would care for each other’s wellbeing. The best example was playing guitar, one of my hobbies: back home I would have practice sessions, but at UWC I would have extended jamming sessions. This sense of community that activities brought was what made my most enjoyable experiences: open mics, TEDx, the musical, residence activities, parties, and our secretive rituals in the middle of the night. Going on hikes with friends was also fulfilling, as nature seems to challenge and yet comfort enough to organically bring people closer to each other while treading through the jungle. Working in teams not only would I feel that my effort was useful for others, but it would make others share the skills that they brought with themselves from their own cultures and individual lives.
In the spirit of service, I joined the mediation team in the school. We were trained to mediate conflicts, and our main service activity was to teach the methods of conflict transformation to others. I have found myself multiple times using the skills I learned here with my daily encounters in and outside of UWC.
It was with the mindset of finding like-minded and engaging people that I applied to Lewis and Clark. Knowing that I would be surrounded by peers who wanted a green college, cared for each other, and at the same time strive for academic excellence was important for me. I am interested in the social sciences, particularly in how real time sampling can be used to find situational factors that lead to happiness and better performance. In other words, I see a lot of potential in knowing how people feel good while acing a math test or when shredding on a stage, for example. I know that positive psychology is doing research in this field, but there are also sociological implications that are worthwhile to look into. I have many more conversations to have to know what is the best approach I should take, but I am thrilled to know that teachers in Lewis and Clark will be willing to guide me. At Lewis and Clark, I expect to have plenty of fulfilling hikes, engaging jam sessions, and insightful conversations!