Julia Sergison ‘16
Secondary education program
"I transferred to SJC after a year away at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. I decided not to return to McGill only after transfer deadlines had passed and I moved back to Long Island with no idea what I would do come September. It was a very rough year all around but through it all the only thing I knew for certain was that I still loved Spanish. About two weeks before classes started at SJC, my uncle suggested I go to admissions and explain my case in hopes they'd accept me to their language education program. Sure enough Adrianna in admissions was very welcoming and I started classes soon after!
Staying at SJC has allowed me to work through and accept the changes life has thrown at me and better get to know myself, all the while being able to work and save money for further education and experiences later in life
"St. Joe's was sprung upon me very unplanned, and here I am about to graduate from what I thought would be a transitory experience. Staying at SJC has allowed me to work through and accept the changes life has thrown at me and better get to know myself, all the while being able to work and save money for further education and experiences later in life. I have also gotten to work with many wonderful professors who have introduced me to new ideas and possibilities. The small size of the school makes it much easier to get that sort of guidance from faculty and staff, something I very much missed out on during my first year.
"Whenever I meet people and get to talking about my studies, they hear 'education' and always ask if it's St. Joe's. Being here has really branded me as the perfect Long Island teacher candidate.
"After my graduation in May, my tentative plans for this summer are to complete the Summer Intensive Language Program for French at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California. I plan to do more traveling within California while I'm there and take a trip to Hawaii to celebrate the end of the program. Other than that, my plan is to stay out of the red, continue to meet people, and see where life takes me! I would love to use my language skills in any area that life will let me and plan to use my current and future connections to do so. I'm a big believer in sort of figuring it out as I go, and I think that will be the majority of my plan post-grad. If that's what got me to SJC, I think it can get me even further!"
Were you involved in any clubs/organizations?
"My first year at SJC I was involved in the Friends of Fire Island National Seashore club but sadly I don't think it exists as a club any longer. However, I volunteered time to the Office of Global Studies as a member of their Student Action Panel, a representative for freshman orientation, as well as sharing my experiences at the annual fair. I also helped Linda Lubranski coordinate keynote speaker, Chris Polley, who shared with the SJC community his travels and experience abroad wokring as a guidance counselor in American schools. In addition to that, I have acted as a representative for both the Modern Languages and Secondary Education departments at other fairs, meetings, or orientations. Furthermore, I am a member of the Gamma Tau Delta, Sigma Iota Chi, and Sigma Delta Pi honor societies."
What inspired you to enter into your major?
"I'd have to say that my love for the Spanish language and cultures was sparked in me when I was 12 years old and I travelled to Spain with my then Spanish teacher to study and live in a homestay in Salamanca. I was in 8th grade and the trip was only offered to 9th and 10th grade but my teacher extended a special invitation to me because she really thought I would flourish.
"I fell in love with it from the very first day and even skipped the nights out with the older kids so that I could stay back and practice my Spanish while getting to know my host family. The following summer, I got my parents to agree to host a student from Spain, giving back in a way. To this day, nearly 8 years later, he is still one of my closest friends!
"Also, my oldest brother was very inspiring as well. He was bitten by the travel bug and seeing his adventures made me crave my own. As for teaching, I come from a huge family filled with many teachers. My dad was a history teacher and later an administrator and my mom always worked in a school though not a teacher. About ten of my cousins work in schools, either as teachers, guidance counselors, or speech pathologists. Growing up as I did, it was always a respected profession."
What was your dream job as a kid?
"As a very young child I always wanted to be a party planner! I always had fun parties for my birthday or holidays or just because it was a nice day and we had a pool! I loved the themes and food and music and mostly I loved that everyone raved about how much fun they were. Even to this day I love planning and organizing and watching everybody enjoy the efforts. After that fantasy, I was more set on becoming a therapist.
"As I mentioned, I had a rough year and couple years before I started at SJC. I was convinced that studying psychology and going to medical school so that I could help others through their hard times and understand why they think would make me happy. Oh how I was wrong. Psychology was so wrong for me — after a year of neuroscience, statistics, and cognitions, I realized more that I don't want to help people fix their thinking later in life, but give them a good start for happy, healthy lifelong thinking. What better way than teaching?"
"I worked with the book Drown by Junot Díaz for my thesis because I really love it so much. However, I do have to say that I absolutely loved Gone Girl, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, all by Gillian Flynn. They're dark but they're very well written and really creative."
"First I have to admit that I think Winnie the Pooh was a very wise little bear. But my favorite quote is from a poem by Jorge Luis Borges:
Así que uno planta su propio jardín y decora su propia alma, en lugar de esperar a que alguien le traiga flores.
I have that printed on my phone case since I like it so much. It translates to 'So plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.'"
Who has been the biggest influence on your life and why?
"Without hesitation, I would say my two older brothers. They were the best role models I could've asked for and they are both so smart and successful in such different ways. I feel like they've worked so hard to get where they are now with no complaints along the way. For whatever I need or have ever needed, they've been there to drop everything and help me, from editing my essays to moving me out of my dorm and everything in between. Nearly everything I do comes with first assuring myself that they would be proud. "
Do you have any hobbies or talents?
"None!! I always make fun of myself to my friends that my life is so busy that my favorite hobby is sleeping! I basically don't have spare time during the week but when I do find time on weekends I'll often spend it with my cousins, either out exploring or just hanging around the coffee table relaxing. I think that since I don't have much time from week to week, my real hobby is traveling. Whenever I have the time and the money, I'm out of here! As far as a talent, I'm really good at making friends with dogs."
Who would play you in a movie about your life and why?
"I feel like this is such an easy answer to give but I do love Jennifer Lawrence. She's goofy and easy-going but can also be smart and serious. Kate Winslet is a favorite of mine too but I think she'd be better at portraying my life than I'd be at living it! I also would consider playing myself — it would be fun but I don't think I'd be able to take myself that seriously."
If you had to give one reason for a student to choose St. Joseph’s College, what would it be?
"Class sizes!!! That's my favorite thing about St. Joe's that you don't get everywhere. I needed the small sizes to get to know the professor and how he/she teaches, grades, thinks, etc. It also encouraged me to go to class all the time!! At McGill I often found myself staying home if it was below 0 degrees or if it was too windy since the professors didn't care if you showed up or note and classes were recorded but at SJC I feel disrespectful to skip class. These teachers usually have a bigger commute than I do and they can make it, so I better be there and be attentive, too."
Did you study abroad?
"Claro que sí! I was only able to do the two-week program to Buenos Aires but I extended on my own an additional week. It was a wonderful trip — just too short! It was amazing to have spent so long learning about the culture, the food, the people, the history and then BE there seeing it all first hand instead of on a textbook page or PowerPoint slide. Language major or not, every American college student should be required to do a study abroad. Just being in a different place you learn so much about the world's immensity and I wholeheartedly believe it makes a smarter, more understanding humankind."
Aside from earning a degree and getting a job, what did you hope to get out of your time at SJC?
"I think SJC has already given me the gift of stability. At SJC I always worked out a nice schedule and knew exactly where to go if I needed assistance. Whereas McGill was another problem to add to my list at the time (in terms of scheduling, clubs, workload, being in a different country with different weather, currency, and culture) SJC instead allowed me to continue a good education while I sorted out some other business in my life."
Have you been a part of any service activities through the College that were meaningful to you?
"I wish I had the chance to do the Nicaragua trip! Unfortunately though I couldn't make that work along with what else I had going on."
Who is your favorite professor and why?
"This is a hard question! I have so many possibilities.
"Antoinette Hertel is wonderful because she was my first Spanish professor at SJC and saw immediately my love for language and travel.
"Fernando Velásquez is also a favorite because his immense knowledge radiates through every lecture and even medieval Hispanic poetry becomes relatable.
"Isabel Alfonso is also fantastic because she is so down to earth while still having time for a family, teaching, continuing research, and encouraging me to head to UMiami like she did! However, besides the Spanish department, Sister Nancy and Professor Moss have done so much for me here, too. Professor Moss really has a knack for making teachers the best they can be; I think I left her class about 300% more capable than when I entered. Sister Nancy is the epitome of what teachers should be - equal parts caring, funny, knowledgeable, approachable, and inspiring."
What have you learned about yourself during your time at SJC?
"I have definitely learned about myself as a student. I need the one-on-one or few-on-one contact to really drive myself towards my best work. I reassured myself that my happiest times in life are the busiest times in life and that I like to be helpful to others. So many times where I was asked to help at something during common hour I shouldn't really skipped to eat lunch or study, but I love the feeling of usefulness which in the long run is better for my lifestyle all around."
If you made front page news, what would be the headline?
"Hopefully something like 'Long Island native breaks world record for most dogs pet in one day.'
Aside from content material, what is the best lesson a professor taught you in class?
"I feel like an overarching lesson in the modern languages department is to just get to know people. We learn about the history of so many countries and all of their peoples and cultures from the birth of that nation until this very day and we are encouraged to go see these places and people in real life and just exist together. Not to look at it like an assignment or as if these people are a case study for class, but rather to learn from simply living."
What was the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
"My biggest challenge in the three years at SJC was/is finishing my thesis! However, it's tough for a different reason than one might think. Some people complain about an undergraduate thesis and the work and how long it is and so on, but I don't think that part is too bad. For me, it was that I fell in love with where my thesis headed but that the deadline crept up and I didn't want to hand it in unfinished. It was probably the truest piece I've ever written and I didn't want to just throw in a bunch more pages because I had to have a certain number by a certain date. It was (and still is!) very hard to force myself to keep writing about the research I have even though it went in a newer, better direction than I intended."
What is the best advice someone has ever given you?
"I think that comes from my oldest brother. He once said something to me about willpower that he heard from someone else. He said that we all wake up everyday with some small reserve of willpower, maybe 50 units. We should use those 50 units all on one, same thing every day. It will be tough, he said, to spend every unit on the same exact thing for every single day. But then he said that it's how everything starts. Soon, I'll wake up and do that thing but still have 50 units in my bank. On that day, I'll make another positive change since I've already adopted as habit the first task. Little by little, that willpower has gotten me to a happier, healthier lifestyle."