• Alexander Lopez-Perez
  • Alexander Lopez-Perez
  • School of Arts and Sciences '18
  • Major(s): English
  • Minor(s): Education

Activities: SASHP Peer Mentor, SASHP Advisory Board, New Student Orientation, CAPS Peer Mentor, SAEE Ambassador, SCREAM Theater, Cap & Skull Senior Honor Society

What attracted you to Rutgers University and the Honors/Scholars Program?
The opportunity to register for Honors classes first drew me into the Honors program at the School of Arts & Sciences (or SASHP). I applied to SASHP during 1st year at Rutgers because I liked the idea of smaller sections for general courses & deeper dives into the topics that such classes covered. As someone who had not declared their major until my Junior year, I benefitted greatly from the extra lengths the professors of these classes took to teach their coursework. That said, while I absolutely gained what I had been looking for through these classes- much of what I loved about being an Honors Scholar came from being involved in the many events & opportunities to connect offered by the program. While many chose to attend Rutgers because it is a large school with rich on-campus opportunities, I applied to Rutgers because I grew up in New Brunswick & liked the thought of commuting to classes. I had a very narrow idea of college that I formed out of pragmatism, but SASHP made me understand just how unique an opportunity being a college student really is.

Why did you choose your major and minor?
I enjoyed seminar-style classes. Most of the insight I remember gaining came from the discussion our class had on our reading. You can really learn just about anything from this major because the English department offers plenty of period courses & topic driven courses. I personally really enjoyed the Health Literature course which covered topics such as pandemics, the perception of illness in media, and questions about people care.

Tell us a little bit about what you're doing now. What was your first job after Rutgers? Where you do you live? What was your first job after Rutgers? Where you do you live?
I am currently a High School teacher in Somerset County, where I teach English, Film, & Creative Writing. I am also a part of the district's equity team, which allows me to facilitate modules & provide input toward the kind of professional development offered to the faculty. Lastly, I am also an intercultural program liaison for the district (we currently host a few virtual exchange students). My first "job" after Rutgers was actually teaching English at a High School in Indonesia. Through the Fulbright Program, I was also able to host a radio show in my host country, implemented community engagement programs, and later lead the in-country orientation for the 2019-2020 American-to-Indonesia Fulbright cohort. My experience studying abroad through SASHP & later my professional experience with Fulbright has inspired me to promote international exchange at the school I now teach in.

What has been your greatest professional and/or personal accomplishment since you graduated Rutgers?
Toward the end of my undergraduate career, I began to have a greater appreciation of home & the communities I have strong attachments to. During my freshman year felt out of place at Rutgers because I did not feel as involved as the I imagined others were. This may have led to feeling like I needed to separate myself from \"home\" in order to feel involved on-campus. Like so many, this past summer was the first summer that I spent home. I began enumerating for the Census during this time which allowed me to take measure of my hometown & really appreciate being among family & former neighbors. Although things were all lonely & there were even some moments where I stood at doorsteps & complexes unanswered; I got the chance to meet with old classmates & visit homes I once stayed over when they were once occupied by friends I remember cherishing. Because I was a college student, I enjoyed traveling more in an academic year than I ever had before adulthood. As an incoming Freshman, I imagined that any time abroad was, for me, unnecessary, inaccessible, & even indulgent. Since graduating, my notion of travel has expanded to include the company we have. It can be composed of just one person (yourself). It may also include a mix of others, such as a loved one, parent, guardian, friend, just as sometimes we self-select OUT of existing company or are rejected from seemingly temporary ones. Occasionally, we can be 'in community' with ourselves. And that is fulfilling in its way.

Was there a class and/or experience at Rutgers that led you to pursuing your current career?
I really enjoy teaching. I believe this was inspired by having been a mentee & then a mentor in many different peer-mentorship programs I had been a part of while at Rutgers. What I believe actively led to my interests in the kind of work I would like to do as a teacher was both the peer mentor program at SASHP & the study abroad opportunities I participated in as an Honors Scholar. While at first, I did not feel as though I had enough knowledge of the college experience to be a mentor with SASHP, I quickly found that great mentorship & education is not centered on the educator hxm or hxrself. Everyone carries their own Interest, priorities, and experiences & getting to learn them is a worthwhile experience in itself. For example, while traveling was at the absolute lowest of my priorities when I enrolled at Rutgers, I had an interest. Due to the exhilarating & educational 1-week or so study abroad program SASHP offers year-round, I opened up an opportunity to travel with fellow Honors scholars to the Netherlands. A year later, I enrolled in another SASHP study opportunity in China. These educational enrichment opportunities & the classmates I met through them inspired me to apply to a Fulbright. Reflecting now, I believe my interests & priorities have evolved, and I would never have reached this place without the kind of personal growth I gained from being an Honors Scholar.

What three words describe your experience at Rutgers and the Honors/Scholars Program? 
Insightful. Exciting. Family.

How has your Rutgers and Honors education benefited you in your post-Rutgers life?
I mentioned earlier that I initially applied to SASHP because I was interested in more challenging coursework. I believe the community at SASHP opened my eyes to the potential & importance of being INVOLVED. SASHP offered its own variety of involvement opportunities such as peer mentorship, multiple mentorship opportunities with alumni, reception & gatherings, and study abroad & interdisciplinary curricular opportunities. The smaller classes I enrolled in made it easy to strike up regular conversations around the class & SASHP's "home," (35 College Ave) made it easy to stay in the know of all the fun events happening around Rutgers by SASHP & the Peer Mentoring program. As a commuter student, I found it difficult to find the need to stay on campus for anything outside of classes or studying. As a consequence, I was not entirely sure if there was anything that the college experience offered outside of that. SASHP drew me into what I now believe is one of the most fundamental opportunities offered by higher education. That is, connecting with peers, being present & appreciating the fact that there is a great license to explore when there are so many who are open to just getting to know you.

What advice do you have for our current SAS Honors Program students?
Distance learning & distance involvement can be exhausting. As much as I myself try my best to join informal web meets & schedule meetups, that in itself can be tiring. I saw my time management skills falter this past year too. For me, when information or tasks I signed up for a start to look overwhelming, I take a moment to reflect on my "needs to met." That "needs to be met" will look different for everyone. For example, I know I would never sign off family time from my schedule because that is something I took the time to write down on paper & say, "I want to focus more on this." I try my best to prioritize what I have in store in the future & I constantly refer to a list of priorities I wrote down for myself. This has made it easier for me to turn down invitations for meetups from friend groups or to take on a club meet for work. What do you look for? What priorities are being met? Once they are, you might have less incentive not to take-up that invitation for a movie or whatever you feel you now have the chance to take on.

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