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Ivy League Latina: Welcome to My World!

Viviana Vallin


Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of Southern Califonia, I never imagined my future being what it is now. I find myself with an opportunity to share my experience as a veterinary student at the University of Pennsylvania.

I am excited to share my path, hoping that along the way other Latina students will be inspired to dream beyond their current surroundings, overcome difficult personal and academic challenges, and ultimately consider me una amiga in whom they can relate to and find support!

My Background and Familia

I want to begin by sharing more about myself and my family. My parents were born and raised in Mexico before moving with their families to San Fernando.  My experience growing up Mexican-American in a predominantly Hispanic, low-income community shaped who I am more than anything. I learned the importance of being a part of a community, the value of hard work,  the dignity in every person’s livelihood, and even my passion for animals.

I have a large extended family that still lives in San Fernando and who played a major role in my life growing up. Many of them did not have many options in pursuing higher education and professional careers.

Is college for me?

In high school, as I began thinking about my future, I did not know where to start or did not truly comprehend how important the decision was.   At the time I had an older cousin who was the first in our family to pursue a Bachelor’s degree at California State University, Northridge. Her example was the first to introduce me to the concept of college and choosing a career. I thank her for two of the best lessons I learned as a teenager.  One is the importance of mentors who expose you to new opportunities beyond your own expectations. The second is realizing the power and privilege in choosing what you want to do with your life. College and education is an opportunity to invest in yourself and create the life you want to live and share with your loved ones in the future!

I decided to attend Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. I graduated from LMU in 2009, only the second in my extended family at the time to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. LMU was a wonderful and enriching experience in which I grew tremendously as a person and student. I will be sharing more about this experience and memorable lessons and moments I had in college.

Fast Forward to Vet School

Upon graduating, I decided to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) member in my hometown of Las Vegas, in which I worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs as a Volunteer Coordinator. After a challenging and fulfilling year, I moved across the country to begin veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The transition and distance from everything I was familiar with was a major adjustment that I am still learning to live with each day.  However, every time I realize that I will soon be a veterinarian and will be able to serve my community as a professional, I also realize that all of the sacrifices are absolutely worth it.

Join Me!

I invite you to come on this journey with me as I share an example of one Educated Latina’s path through college and graduate school.  It’s an ever-changing, never dull, but most importantly, it is a path that is being set behind me for more Latina students to follow.  Adelante!




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