This week, we interviewed Santi Hernandez (they/them), a junior from Los Angeles, CA, for our weekly student highlight series. Hernandez is concentrating in Public Health & Ethnic Studies. They are involved with the Queer Alliance (QA), Nurturing Alignment through the Brown Center for Students of Color (BCSC), The Next Thing (TNT), and Bonner Community Fellows through the Swearer Center. Read more below:

How’s your semester so far?
Where do I even start? I think this semester, I don’t know what about it, but I’ve been reflecting a lot and reevaluating, especially because I’ve hit the halfway mark of Brown. I’ve kind of gotten into a half-college-crisis of what I’ve done these past few years, how I’ve grown these past few years, and what I want to accomplish in the rest of my time here. So it’s really daunting to think about but I think it’s forced me to reevaluate how I want to spend the rest of my time here and how I want to be present.

What are you most excited for this semester?
I’m really excited for two things: The Next Thing, which we call TNT, and Nurturing Alignment. Aquielle, the other TNT coordinator, has been putting in a lot of work to really build up the community of queer and trans people of color on campus and to make our presence visible. I’m really excited to support her in that. For me, my role is more of support because Aquielle is really taking on the work of planning meetings and holding space, whether it’s just to build community and make ourselves known and seen and really affirming each other.

For Nurturing Alignment, they’re focusing on specific skills that are applicable. We’re putting into practice making practical tools that you can use whether in this community or through skill building workshops. One that’s coming up is on how to build boundaries. Others we’re exploring are how to address harm, how to get more in tune with your body and with your emotions.

Favorite memory at Brown?
I think I’ve had this moment with a lot of people, but it’s been the one on one conversations that have really been an a-ha moment. That’s the best way I can explain it – kind of like an epiphany. Those one on one conversations where I learned something about myself and learned something about another person. I feel like those talks have especially shaped the way that I move around at Brown. I think I’m not a person that thrives in big groups, so I would say it’s not one favorite memory because right now I can think to a couple people that I talked to that have really changed my perception in some way.

Advice you’d give your freshman year self?
Oof — I feel like if I’m giving real advice, it might be something along the lines of, things are going to be shitty and the transition is going to be ugly but know that all these obstacles are going to help you grow in the long run. Most of all, be gentle with yourself. I think that’s something I’ve been telling all my friends when I give advice. I say you have to be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself the way you treat other people. I find I’m more hard on myself so take things day by day, week by week.

I think if I had just been patient, not rushing growth, I think I could have been in a much better headspace. I think that would be my overarching advice: don’t rush growth.