Believe That You Belong: A First-Generation Transfer Student’s Journey
NYU was Diego’s dream. When he became a transfer student, he didn't waste any time living it.
Diego Antonio Quintana Licona, a junior in the College of Arts and Science, understands perseverance. After graduating from high school, he started college in his home country of Mexico. But NYU was his dream school, and he made it his mission to become a transfer student.
Drawn to the chemical and health sciences along with social sciences and humanities, Diego knew that NYU, as a major research university with a liberal arts curriculum, would be where he could engage in all of his interests. “I wanted to come here because it is a university that celebrates diversity and unique perspectives and mindsets,” he says. “So I persisted and looked for ways to make this a reality. It has been both the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. I am so proud to finally be able to say that New York City is my home and NYU is my school.”
A Double Major and a Dive Into Research
At NYU, Diego hit the ground running and is now a dual Chemistry and Gender and Sexuality Studies major. He has always been passionate about science. “Since I was a kid, I liked to know the why and how of things. Chemistry allows me to comprehend the world around me and understand why things are the way they are,” he says. “I had a chemistry professor who told us that wherever we looked, we could find chemistry behind it. That’s resonated with me throughout the years.”
At NYU’s Socioeconomic Evaluation of Dietary Decisions (SEED) Lab, Diego is a research assistant. The lab’s mission is to combat obesity, reduce health disparities, and impact food policy with empirically supported guidance on improving the world’s diet. “The lab has allowed me to explore the intersections of population health and social analysis that I have always been interested in,” he says. “Right now, I am excited about an interesting project we are doing on the health impacts of racially targeted food advertisements.”
A FOCUS on Community
Diego also found a welcoming community of peers and mentors at NYU. During his first semester, he joined the FOCUS Mentorship Program for first-generation minority students. It helped him adjust to college life at NYU. And because he is a transfer student, it also helped him learn how to live in New York City. Additionally, Diego volunteered with the Peer Health Exchange. Their mission is to provide high school students with workshops and resources to educate them on mental and sexual health. “The experience emphasized the importance of diversity in health education,” he says. “It exposed me to different schools in the city, and helped me discover areas outside of the NYU bubble.”
Believe That You Belong
After graduation, Diego will continue to combine his passions and go to medical school. “I want to get involved in research that uses my social analysis and chemistry skills to tackle medical problems that particularly affect vulnerable communities,” he says.
And as someone whose path to NYU was winding, and who, as a transfer student and a first-generation international college student, had concerns about adjusting, Diego has an important message to share. “I just want to remind both current and prospective students that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or the challenges you’ve faced—you belong. If you were admitted to NYU, you’ve earned your spot for a reason. You have so much to offer and share with others, so do not be afraid to let your colors shine through and to be yourself,” he says. “It may take some time, but you will definitely find your community at NYU.”