My Rollins Life: A Study in Resilience

March 04, 2022

By Angelica Rivera ’23, as told to Adrienne Egolf

Angelica Rivera ’23
Photo by Scott Cook.

With the support of her mentors, environmental studies major Angelica Rivera ’23 has adapted to unexpected challenges—and found new opportunities along the way.

Like many students whose college careers have overlapped with a global pandemic, Angelica Rivera ’23’s Rollins experience has been a bit different than expected. The environmental studies major, who graduated from a public high school just half-an-hour from campus, had hoped to be installing water filtration systems on chemistry professor Pedro Bernal’s field study to the Dominican Republic, but instead she’s thrown herself into a myriad of surprising opportunities closer to home that she knows wouldn’t be possible at any other college than Rollins.

Hear from Angelica in her own words about how getting involved on campus and forging close relationships with her mentors has prepared her perfectly for life’s next steps.

Angelica Rivera ’23
Photo by Scott Cook.

Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

“I got a full-ride Rosen Scholarship to Rollins, and I’m so grateful for this incredible opportunity. The relationships I’ve made here and the unique experiences I’m having are irreplaceable. Even though I haven’t been able to study abroad yet, I’ve found so many other ways to get involved. Recently, I attended the Emerging Leadership Institute, where we spent a weekend getting to know new friends through different leadership activities. I met really motivated, highly driven, energetic people who are on my wavelength.”

A Turning Point

“My academic advisor, environmental studies professor Lee Lines, along with chemistry professor Pedro Bernal really helped steer me down the path I’m on now. They helped me secure an internship with the Florida Native Plant Society and have opened my eyes to different graduate programs. Things really started coming together when I discovered that I could get my master’s in geoscience.”

Angelica Rivera ’23 (left) during her internship at the Florida Native Plant Society.
Angelica Rivera ’23 (left) during her internship at the Florida Native Plant Society.

Liberal Arts in Action

“My internship at the Florida Native Plant Society gave me a firsthand look at the potential detrimental effects of urban sprawl when we had a 100-year-old rosemary bush that had to be cut down to build a house. It made me so much more passionate about conservation and preservation of our natural environments. We worked on a large project that involved collecting over 1,000 mini habitats to act as interim homes for endangered plants to be relocated. I also got the chance to educate members of the community about planting native plants in their backyards instead of adding invasive species.”

Deeper Understanding

“I decided to major in environmental studies and minor in biology. I realized through my time at Rollins so far that it was important for me to understand what exactly I wanted to help protect as a future environmental protection specialist. I’m inspired by this field of study because of all the opportunities that are available to come up with solutions. In addition to learning more and more about this field, I also want to help educate others and get them involved in caring for our environment.”

Angelica Rivera ’23 and fellow students on an Immersion with Habitat for Humanity.
Angelica Rivera ’23 and fellow students on an Immersion service learning experience with Habitat for Humanity.

Serving Others

“My first year, I went on an Immersion with Habitat for Humanity in Tampa. It was amazing. I really got to learn about homelessness—for example, people are not ‘homeless’ but are rather ‘experiencing homelessness.’ We got to help pass out food, see for ourselves the changes that the community is going through, and learn about what kind of assistance they really need.”

Getting Involved

“My friend Jessica Gonzalez ’21 encouraged me to join the Rollins Dance Team, and doing the competition my second year was so fun. I met so many cool people. Then I did the Sustainable Fashion Show, which was an awesome experience and helped connect me to a group of like-minded students. I’m also involved in EMBARK, which helps students from marginalized groups acclimate to college life, and the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which has really helped me feel connected to campus.”

Friends and Food

“Even though it’s a small campus, there are people from all different walks of life. I love connecting with new people and being exposed to different ideas and even different kinds of food. The Marketplace in the Campus Center is always serving various regional and global cuisine—the Mardi Gras oxtail is one of my favorites, and the ramen at the international station is delicious.”

Angelia Rivera ’23 walking by Kathleen W. Rollins Hall.
Photo by Scott Cook.

A Campus of Change

“All across campus, people are trying to make a difference. Whether it’s conserving and protecting our environment through the Sustainability Program or improving campus policies through the Student Government Association, there are so many opportunities to get involved in what you’re passionate about. And this makes me hopeful about how my generation will influence the future. I know my Rollins education will help me make my mark in the world.”

Students paddleboarding on Lake Virginia.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Angelica’s Favorite …

Place on campus: Lake Virginia, where I love to paddleboard.

Study spot: The fourth floor of the library, where I have direct access to the paleontology and marine biology sections.

Park Avenue hangout: Winter Park Farmers Market for fresh flowers and local honey

Campus dining venue: The Marketplace for mac and cheese and okra

Thing to do when you’re not in class: Visiting area parks, riding my bike, and reading books.

Place to hang out with friends: New restaurants around town. I’m a major foodie, so my friend and peer mentor, Karina Hornberger ’22, and I are always trying new cuisines together.

Rollins College students enjoying lunch by the Lakeside pool.

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