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Humans of the U: Jessica Begay

“I am originally from Gallup, New Mexico. I was raised about an hour away from Gallup in Crown Point, New Mexico. It’s a very rural area on the Navajo Reservation. Because I grew up in a rural community, there were not many opportunities for me to learn more about my culture and the things that mean the most to me, especially in school. It was difficult for me to go to school and always feel like I was different and didn’t have a place, even though it was my home.

When I was deciding where I wanted to go to college, I toured the U a few times and I really fell in love with it because of all the opportunities it had. I started as a kinesiology major. But being at the U allowed me to really think about what had been important to me as a little girl, which had been books and reading. I made the jump from STEM to humanities and ended up getting a bachelor’s degree in Writing and Rhetoric Studies.

This was a big jump. But as I explored the options I had for a career in writing, I realized this is where I wanted to be. I have always kept a journal ever since I was a little girl. While it was challenging to be in a major with so much reading, I liked the opportunity to engage with the life’s work of so many different people, especially Native writers and scholars. They have motivated and inspired me to continue doing what I’m doing right now at the U.

Right now, I am in the first year of my master’s program in the Writing and Rhetoric Studies Department. There were tough parts of transitioning back into being a student, but it has been going great overall. After I get my degree, I plan on moving back home to New Mexico. I feel Native people are often pushed towards jobs in STEM and healthcare fields. I want to help more people realize humanities are an option for us. I want to help students have the chance to learn how to write and tell their own stories and their family stories.

Storytelling is really important in my culture. I have seen the difference it can make for people in the students I taught last semester. I want to continue to help students gain a different perspective about what writing can do for them.

To all the other Native kids, I want you to know it’s important for our stories to be told. Representation is very important and there are so many opportunities for you as long as you are looking for them.”

— Jessica Begay, writing and rhetoric master’s student at the U from Gallup, New Mexico