Student Voices

Ismael Carvajal, Mechanical Engineering

I was born in Tijuana, Mexico. In 2009 my parents decided to migrate to the United States to improve our life opportunities. I was fourteen years old. Moving to the U.S. was a challenge for me, because I did not speak nor write English. We moved to the small town of Lompoc.

After I graduated from high school in 2013, college was the next step. I didn’t know where to go at first, but my sister recommended Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). My dad is an automotive technician, and I had the opportunity to learn from him, so when I signed up at City College, I had my heart set on being a mechanic. After a year of taking ESL classes, I was ready to register for the automotive program, so I talked to a counselor. Seeing how interested I was in cars, she gave me the idea of learning to design cars, not just repair them. With the support of my family, my ESL professors, and that counselor, I was brave enough to dream bigger, and that's how I ended up pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at UCSB.

I transferred here in 2018, and my experience has been incredible. The support here is great in every area: financial, academic, and cultural. Programs such as Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) and organizations like Los Ingenieros have been crucial to my academic progress. Thanks to MESA and the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP), I was able to do paid research with a professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, present my research at the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers National Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, and obtain an internship in the manufacturing department at Photothermal Spectroscopy Corporation in Goleta.

In the beginning, I just wanted to get a bachelor’s degree, but my summer research position at Stanford’s Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource helped me realize that I enjoy doing research. There is still so much to learn and now I’m seriously considering pursuing a master’s or a PhD.

It has not been an easy journey; it takes time, consistency, and hard work to pursue your dreams. After two years at UCSB, I have experienced joy, love, courage, and fear. I have felt the fear of people criticizing my English and the fear of failing. But UCSB has supported me in every aspect to overcome that fear, improve myself, and share my knowledge in order to help someone else accomplish their dream. Coming to UCSB was the right choice.