Global Aggies: Venturing Across Cultural and Virtual Landscapes

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Christal Juarez in Geneva, Switzerland, outside of the United Nations’ historic Palais des Nations. (Photo Courtesy: Christal Juarez)

Christal Juarez is a recent graduate of both the anthropology and international relations departments in the College of Letters and Sciences and served as chair of the Student Advisory Board for Undergraduate Education before becoming an Aggie alumna.

Unlike many of her fellow students, Juarez grew up in Los Angeles without getting to go on “American vacations.” Instead, her family would save up to travel to Mexico every few years to visit family.

However, limited finances didn’t stop Juarez’s parents from encouraging her to enroll at UC Davis, seize every opportunity to travel the world, and learn about other cultures alongside her own. This push resulted in Juarez building on her experiences traveling to Mexico studying abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, through the summer program, The Politics of Global Inequality.

“Before studying abroad, I had never even been outside of North America,” she says. “Being in Switzerland was a truly phenomenal place to really gain an understanding of our interconnected world, as we visited several global organizations such as the UN Headquarters, World Trade and the World Health Organization.”

“Through this experience, I began to truly see myself as a globally engaged student, and felt compelled to seek out more global experiences,” she says.

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Juarez in Barcelona, Spain, enjoying an FC Barcelona tour of the Camp Nou soccer stadium. (Photo courtesy: Christal Juarez)

Global Education Journey

After returning from this summer abroad, during Juarez’s sophomore year she started working as a UCEAP student enrollment advisor through the UC Davis Global Learning Hub—and “loved every second.”

“I am distinctly aware of the significance of advisors in students’ undergraduate success and overall experience,” she says. “Each year, I’ve worked with new study abroad programs and procedures, along with a diverse population of students who each have their own ambitions, passions, and needs. Utilizing my knowledge of study abroad programs and procedures has contributed greatly to my ability to empower other students to achieve their study abroad goals.”

It was through the Global Learning Hub that Juarez was first introduced to the Asia-Pacific Rims Universities Leadership program (APRU), and received a nomination to participate in the program.

“I was lucky enough to go to the University of Oregon with 49 other students from universities all over the Pacific Rim,” she says. “This experience was nothing short of life-changing. We spent two intensive weeks working in groups to solve local problems in regards to social, environmental, and health factors—both locally and globally.”

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A group shot in San Francisco after the conclusion of the APRU Undergraduate Leaders Program. (Photo courtesy: Christal Juarez)

And through Juarez’s work as a UCEAP student enrollment advisor, she learned of the Human Rights and Cultural Memory semester abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile, deciding to attend the fall of her senior year.

“I must say, I happened to be there during such a historically significant time,” she says. “In Argentina, there is an ongoing economic crisis that brought about further discussion on human rights in regards to the economy. In Chile, there is a social movement that deserves the world’s full attention, and I fear that human rights abuses are current and ongoing.”

Juarez notes she is incredibly grateful for the impactful time she spent in Argentina and Chile, especially because it taught her firsthand what human rights violations look like—and how to address them.

Given Juarez’s deep commitment to global learning, it was only natural for her to apply for the new UC Davis Global Affairs SDG Internship, which is designed to help advance UN Sustainable Development Goals by harnessing larger campus involvement.

I initially learned about the SDGs when studying abroad in Switzerland through the Politics of Global Inequality program,” says Juarez. “The vitality of the work of the international organizations there resonated with me deeply, and the SDG internship outlined potential projects for working toward these goals, so I wanted to be a part of the team that could make that happen.”

“Remote” Training

While Juarez assumed that current social distancing protocols would impede the outcomes she could achieve through the SDG internship, she’s been relieved to learn that quite the opposite is the case.

“Many of the conferences, webinars, and gatherings that were happening outside of UC Davis have turned into virtual events, which means that I’ve actually been able to participate in events that may have otherwise been limited to me geographically,” she says.

One such event was the 24-Hour Webinar on Earth Day hosted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), of which UC Davis is a member. During this event, Juarez was able to listen in on programming from the world’s leading climate experts during two different sessions.

“The fifth session was actually in Spanish as it was led by SDSN South America, so I felt delighted to engage in global learning in my first language,” she says. “Additionally, COVID-19 has provided a new and urgent global framework to think through, as many of us—despite geographical location—are experiencing a similar situation. So these social, economic, and environmental circumstances have given us all a new way to consider the significance of the SDGs.”

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Juarez with fellow 2019 APRU Undergraduate Leaders Program participants. Here the University of California students are showing two University of Auckland students around San Francisco. (Photo courtesy: Christal Juarez)

Juarez sees the SDG framework as an incredibly important roadmap for achieving sustainable development across the world’s economic, social, and environmental dimensions, regardless of a community’s geographical location.

“Under the framework of the SDGs, we are working within a common global language that is understood internationally, and I think having that connection is as motivational as it is inspiring,” she says.

And as a first-generation college student, it’s SDG 4: Quality Education, which touches home for Juarez.

“I intensely understand and recognize that the opportunities to pursue education are not always available, and in some places, they are scarce,” she says. “Even in cases where education at all levels is available, it is evident that even the best educational systems have a long way to go to provide quality education for all students and families across gender, racial, language, and economic lines. I feel enormously grateful to be receiving a degree of higher education, and deeply feel that it is my job to create those spaces for future students who are and are not like me.” 

This is part of a series featuring Global Aggies – members of the UC Davis community who are living the Global Affairs mission: to inspire global curiosity, understanding, and engagement. Learn more about Global Aggies at UC Davis

About the Global Learning Hub at UC Davis

Through the Global Learning Hub, each and every UC Davis student can find global learning opportunities available on campus, in the region, and across all seven continents. The hub’s network of local and global academic, experiential, and leadership programs helps develop capacity for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to engage with global issues and make a difference in the world as the next generation of global problem solvers. Search global learning opportunities across UC Davis.

As a part of Global Affairs, the Global Learning Hub aims to inspire global curiosity, understanding, and engagement.

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