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CALS Graduating Student Profile: Erica Santiago

Erica Santiago discovered the family, youth and community sciences major from her colleagues while serving as a student U Matter Ambassador for the UF Division of Student Affairs. Her interest in mental health and helping others overcome anxiety and stress inspired her to take advantage of campus resources and learn about the U Matter, We Care initiative.

“My own personal struggles with general stress and anxiety that come with college, and coping with additional stressors outside of academics brought me to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences,” Santiago said.

After her the fall of her junior year at UF, Santiago decided it would be in her best interest to take time away from UF. Before reapplying to UF a year and a half later, she met with FYCS advisor, Katheryn Ivey, to discuss the major after her online research.

“She made FYCS work for me and never judged my decision to take time off or rushed me into reapplying,” Santiago said. “I truly believe my time in that advising office that day gave me the comfort and reassurance I needed to reapply to UF and that there were people who cared. I ended up reapplying to UF and was readmitted as an FYCS student summer 2018.”

As a first-generation student, being away from home for the first time, struggling with roommates, uncertainty about what to major in, and dealing with family illness made Santiago’s first few years of college difficult.

“Struggling with my own stress and anxiety ultimately led me to my current passion” Santiago said. “Finding FYCS solidified my reasoning for wanting to come back to UF. FYCS is an amazing major, filled with passionate and caring people who have the student’s best interest at heart. I feel truly blessed to have found and been a part of this major. Graduating from this university has always been a dream and I am proud to say I will be accomplishing that dream despite the hardship very soon!”

After graduation, Santiago plans to gain experience working in several industry options, such as rehabilitation centers, hospitals, college or middle/high schools, prior to applying to graduate school. Her goals include becoming a mental health counselor, working with youth, and potentially opening her own counseling practice some day.

“Don’t rush and always do what’s best for you,” Santiago advised current and future CALS students. “You are the only one who knows what you need and how you feel. There is no shame in taking a break or asking for help. Ever. Only you can write how your story is supposed to be written. There is no timeline to happiness.”

The family, youth and community sciences major is a social science major that prepares students to address predictable human developmental changes, unpredictable events such as natural disasters, and persistent problems such as poverty and nutrition. Students study sociology, psychology, and economics as well as advanced topics in youth, family, and community development. Find a CALS major that suits your interests by taking our majors quiz. You can also find information regarding our undergraduate and graduate programs on our website.

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