Managing school, work, and taking time for yourself is a difficult task. The typical day looks like this: wake, study, work, eat, sleep.

julia perez in group

How do we make time for a social life? How do we take time for ourselves?

Julia Perez, a junior biomedical sciences major with a concentration in pre-med, has found her balance juggling school and work while making time to care for her mental health.

Perez visited the Mount during her senior year of high school. MSJ had always been on her college list but it didn’t become one of her top choices until she met Tina Blakley, the head coach of the cross-country team, who told her that she was the right fit for the Mount. They stayed in contact. Perez liked that Blakley was a constant presence and it made her want to come to MSJ.

While Perez is no longer on the cross-country team, she is the president of Rainbow Alliance, an RA, the president of Hispanic Latin Student Union, a Mission Ambassador, a member of the biology honors society – Tri Beta. She used to be a Lion’s First mentor, a first-generation mentoring program.

She also works two jobs. Her main job is as a Patient Care Assistant at UC Health where she works 12-hour shifts twice a week. Her other job is in the Mount library as backup help. Most students go to classes, then work (if they have a job), then do homework, and then sleep for a few hours. Imagine having to go straight from classes to a 12-hour night shift and then having to skip sleep to go to class the following day, all while trying to get your homework done!

As previously mentioned, Julia serves as a Mission Ambassador. The Mission Ambassador Program gives students who regularly practice a faith tradition opportunities to come together to serve the community and grow closer as a Mount family and in relationship with God. Perez applied to be a Mission Ambassador in her sophomore year because she really liked the service aspect. She noticed that everyone in the program has a passion for helping others and making a difference so she wanted to be a part of the loving community of believers. During her first year as a Mission Ambassador, she realized that by putting so much on her plate she wasn’t able to devote as much time to the program as she should have. so this year she is putting in more effort to be involved.

In her free time, she enjoys knitting because she finds it very calming. She also likes to sit in nature with her friend and relax in her room to take a breather. She says that her room acts as a calming presence where she can get work done.

Perez realized that with her major she could go three different routes: nursing, a physician assistant program, or medical school. She isn’t sure about what she wants to do in the medical field yet. She wants to work in health care no matter the position so that she can make a difference in the lives of others. She has learned that it’s not easy for patients to be in the hospital and understands where patients are coming from so she wants to make their lives as easy as she can.

For her the most difficult part of college is having so many people rely on her. Being involved as an RA and in clubs can be overwhelming. As a person who always wants to help in any way she can, sometimes it’s hard for her to say “no” when people ask her for things. Thankfully, the easiest part of college life for her is managing her classes. She is grateful that her professors are always willing to work with students.

“Teachers truly want to see you succeed; they don’t want you to fail,” says Perez. Many professors at MSJ could be enjoying retirement right now, but instead they choose to come to class each day because they love helping their students learn and fulfill their potential. Some professors remind their students that during office hours they are sitting in their office waiting for students to come ask them for help.

After a long day of classes, homework, and clubs, Perez needs time to recharge. She is used to staying up until 3 or 4 a.m., but after realizing that her mental health is more important than her assignments, she has been prioritizing rest. She doesn’t always get enough sleep, especially when working a night shift at UC Health. However, she tries to be done with homework by 10 p.m. so that she can relax from 10 until midnight. In order to make this happen, she gets the assignments due the soonest done that day so that she isn’t rushing as much to get them done that night.

Life as a biomedical sciences major and being very active on campus can be stressful and overwhelming. Perez explains that when she is really stressed out, an effective coping strategy is to take a second to breathe and talk to herself about what’s going on, what she needs in that moment, and what she can do. This helps her to focus on one thing and calm down. She also likes to take self-care days every once in a while where she focuses on non-stressful things, grabs a meal with a friend, or watches tv.

At times it can be difficult to see the point in all that we do. When Perez feels this way, she takes comfort in people around her who motivate her to persevere. She talks to her friends or Maria DiTullio, Coordinator of Mission Integration and Belonging, and her support system reminds her of what she wants to do in the future. The thought that keeps her going is that “Everything happens for a reason. There’s always a plan. Even though it won’t feel great right now, it will all fall into place.”

Her words of encouragement are that it is ok to say “no”, and that it’s ok to not get the best grades all the time. We will learn things as we go. “It’s ok to struggle, in the end you will find your way,” she believes.

Photo: Julia Perez, front row, second from left, with a group of Mission Ambassadors.