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Name: Airin Lara
Hometown: Oxnard, California
Undergraduate school/program: Metropolitan State University of Denver – Bachelor’s in Speech Language and Hearing Sciences
Desired graduate school programs: California State University, Northridge, University of Utah, Brigham Young University – Master's in Speech-Language Pathology
Graduation Year: 2021 (December)
How did you come to learn about speech-language pathology?
It was kind of weird. My whole family is in the school system. I have a dad that is teacher and a mom that's a paraeducator. My brother is a counselor. So, I figured I'd kind of go that route, also, since I have like an “in” with networking. I was planning on being a special educator at first. I know this sounds kind of shallow, but I have a cousin that's also a teacher, and he was saying, “If you really want to focus on children and get money (because especially [teaching] doesn't give you a lot of money), then speech-language pathology is an option that you could look into.”
So, I started looking into it and then realized that I I have an autistic cousin who actually went to speech therapy. It didn't click until afterwards. [My cousin] didn't talk for the first four or five years of her life, and it wasn't until after she went to speech therapy that she really blossomed. She just can't stop talking now. It's like she loves it, and so those two scenarios were the biggest influences for me. I feel I can really make a difference in someone's life and earn a good amount of money.
I want to make a good living and be able to provide for myself and my family.
Why did you believe that the speech-language pathology field in particular was for you?
Honestly, in the very beginning I wasn't sure if it was going to be for me. I just kind of realized that speech-language pathology could be an option, so I went for it. I did a little bit of research, and it interested me a little bit, but it wasn't until I went into the classes that I really enjoyed it. It's interesting to me. I think probably my second year in my undergrad school was when I realized it. I was thinking, “This is something I really enjoy.”
So, I don't know if I have a specific thing that fits me other than I enjoy it and I feel like I'll be able to make a difference. I want to have an emphasis on autism or on the autism spectrum. So, I think that also was part of being able to have both at the same time. It just felt right.
In school, what is something that you found yourself adjusting to?
I've had to deal with COVID and going from in-person, which is where I thrive. Being online was probably one of the hardest...probably why my grades have suffered so much. We have both asynchronous and synchronous classes, so whenever I had the choice to not be in class and not have to just sit on the computer and try not have myself fall asleep, that has probably been the hardest adjustment. We're actually back in person. and I love it. This semester I was like, “thank goodness I have a chance to be in person.”
I guess another one right now is I'm taking a language and interventions assessments class and trying to figure out the lingo. It's kind of hard for me. It's like I'm not good at writing. When I’m writing papers, trying to get my thoughts onto the paper is one of my biggest difficulties. Trying to express myself in a professional manner that still gets my point across is a big difficulty for me.
What's something you say you either loved while you have been in school or are good at?
Although I love all the new material that I've learned, I have a teacher who specializes in adults with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder); I'm actually taking my senior experience class with her right now, and she has just opened up my mind to a whole new world. I've always had this perception of autistic people. Not that they are dumb or stupid. I've known that they're smart. I've known that they have their own personalities. I just had learned so much more information about it now. It has been an eye opener learning about speech and language and people with disabilities. I've really learned to love and just enjoy the articles or videos [my teacher] sends me weekly, and I'm not bored with them.
I feel like we put a lot of our emphasis on children on the autism spectrum, and I've never even thought about adults on the spectrum and how they're supposed to live out their lives and all the struggles that they have to endure with their disability and people’s perception of them, etc.
Awesome! So outside of school, what's something that you enjoy doing?
Working out is probably the only thing I really do outside of school. Also, typical answers like I enjoy being with my family, working out, and hanging with my boyfriend. Our dates consist of going to the gym and then having lunch.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully graduating with my SLP [speech-language pathology master’s degree] and beginning my clinical fellowship or at least having already started it. It's kind of hard because you don't know if you're going to get into graduate school or you're going to have to take the SLPA (speech-language pathology assistant) route. I don't know. I have to think about five years ahead and where I'm going to be, but I hope to be almost done because I could be in my program still.
What advice do you have for others who are thinking about going into the speech pathology field and maybe they're kind of hesitant because they probably had some bad experiences? They might be doubtful, or they may be having a difficult time trying to get themselves to go for it.
I think it's more about listening to yourself and having the confidence in yourself to know that just because someone says you can't do something doesn't mean that you can't. You might have to take a different route to get there, but I feel like it's more of self-determination. Like you said, if you really want something, there's a will, there's a way.
I think one of the biggest things that I wish I would have had more instruction on was what happens after undergraduate school, so making sure that you're knowledgeable about that, what your options are, and focusing on that as well. Because I feel like the undergraduate classes are passable, you know, like everything can be done. If you're really determined, then you can succeed, but I feel like just learning about what's after and making sure that that's something that you want...that would be the biggest piece of advice that I could give.
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