For Chyna Vargas, a College of Media & Communication first-year journalism major, experiencing life outside of the United States is an ordinary occurrence. During her father's 2017-19 military deployment, Vargas served in the housing department at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and now utilizes skills she acquired there in her role as director of social justice and community service for the Chitwood/Weymouth Complex Council at Texas Tech University.
Vargas is grateful for the transcontinental experience, and she has a good laugh when people ask her about her hometown.
“I always tell them it's a long story and I'm not really from just one place,” Vargas says. “It's all generalized because I've moved from different countries.”
Vargas worked for two years at the embassy before pondering her next move after high school. It wasn't until her peers suggested an unknown college located in west Texas that sparked her interest.
“Everyone is from everywhere when you're working at Abu Dhabi,” Vargas says. “Everyone always says they're going to college either on the west or east coast, but after talking to some friends, they all told me Texas Tech was the best place to build my career.”
Vargas credits a tour she took before her freshman year as the deciding factor for enrolling to the university.
“It was a great tour!” Vargas says. “I just heard so many great things that students had accomplished outside their undergrad and graduate programs. That was a great set-up for someone.”
Even though the tour was more than a year ago, Vargas still feels like she is experiencing the same tour and finds something new every day at the College of Media & Communication. She also marks the college as the one to finally understand her passion for journalism. Although her initial passion was to pursue English, Vargas notes the college as a source of inspiration that helped guide her passion for writing.
“I wanted to be an English major, but I didn't want to follow the same path as my grandmother, because I saw her struggle as a teacher,” Vargas says. “I was taken aback by the [college's] departments and how they all handled media. There is a lot more to communication than we realize, and they understood my love for writing and media.”
Vargas currently works as an opinion columnist at the Daily Toreador, the campus newspaper, regularly writing about issues concerning diversity, race, and involvement. She is learning how to write in AP style and discovering aspects of journalism she never once considered.
“Learning how to write in AP is a big one,” Vargas says. “I didn't even know journalists needed to have a different writing style. I'm learning the ins and outs of journalism, even if the work can be hectic. If anything, I'm pushing myself to do more and the Daily Toreador creates that environment for me.”
As director for social justice and community service for the Chitwood/Weymouth Complex Council, Vargas combines her international background with her passion for inclusion to emphasize diversity on campus.
“Our primary goal is to hold initiatives and programs to educate others on diversity,” Vargas says. “We plan events not only on race, but on gender, age, and the LGBQT community. We want everyone to feel included on our campus.”
Vargas credits her skills back to her time at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi. She notes that the cultural experience there furthered her world view, contributed to her advocacy efforts, and plays a major influence on her focus on inclusion.
“The thing I noticed, even if I was filing papers and designing projects as an intern, was that there was diversity amongst the employees,” Vargas says. “We had an international event to which people from Egypt, Greece, and Turkey came to visit. I just thought to myself how narrow my mindset was thinking that embassies would be separate.”
Vargas remarks this culture shock as a major influence for her passions today, allowing her to infuse inclusion with her transcontinental skills.
“That passion always comes back to my time in Abu Dhabi,” Vargas says. “Over there, they were always so passionate about service and advocating for others that weren't always as privileged as others. I appreciated that because it was something that definitely carried with me to college.”
Although her passion for social justice is high, Vargas recognizes the struggles of advocacy during a global pandemic.
“It's tricky because we ask ourselves what we are going to do during COVID,” Vargas says. “It's all about doing what we can with what we have, especially with social media. I am grateful because I'm learning from my media class and applying it to my position so we can see what methods work for reaching students.”
Vargas loves the idea of combining what she loves learning with what she's passionate about. Although Vargas didn't want to follow in her grandmother's footsteps, she's using a different approach to educating others.
“I love caring for people, and I've been lucky enough to be in a position to share that with others,” Vargas says. “My biggest thing is education. Even if I don't want to be a teacher, I want to teach in a way that people will understand by today's standards.”
After experiencing cultures outside the U.S. and advocating for college inclusion, Vargas admits there might be an underlying theme in her character.
“I've grown to like the satisfaction of helping others in any way I can,” Vargas says. “I believe the experience this college will give me will help me reach my end goal of helping others, and if I can do just that, it will be enough for me.”
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