Can you introduce yourself?
Hi everyone! My name is Omar Salinas and I am a 3rd year studying chemistry and biological sciences. I was born here in Chicago, pero mis padres son de Michoacán, Mexico. I’ve lived in various parts of the city including Rogers Park, Back of the Yards, and Gage Park, but currently live in the Marquette Park neighborhood.
What challenges do you face as an FLI student and what have you learned to overcome some of them?
It was difficult navigating an unfamiliar space and its academics, while also finding a community that made me feel welcomed as a Latinx FLI student. Whether it was in class or in dorm house spaces, I always felt out of place and othered. Surrounding myself with like-minded people who have had similar experiences helped me find the community I needed. It was important to recognize which spaces served me and when I needed space for myself to regenerate my energy. I learned to not be afraid to seek mental health services and advocate for myself.
What advice would you give to your first-year you?
In their application, UChicago asks the well-known question “Why UChicago?”; at this point in my college career I began to ask myself “Why me?”, as in, why did UChicago pick me? I’d like to give myself the answer: because you belong here! UChicago FLI and BIPOC students brighten up space and I’ve learned this within spaces like Blacklight Magazine, Leaders of Color, and community organizing spaces like UChicago United. We bring a deep-rooted passion no one else can reproduce. I’d also tell myself to explore classes outside my major(s), go on more adventures with close friends, and appreciate the smaller things in life.
What is your proudest moment so far?
For me, large accomplishments don’t make me feel as fulfilled as the smaller moments do. When I came home from working at my lab the summer after my first year, my younger sister (10 years old at the time) asked me about it. I told her I was working as a science researcher and showed her pictures of some crystals I had grown. Her face glowed up with excitement and it brought a sense of fulfillment within me. A goal of mine is to inspire minoritized students to achieve dreams that they have, even if these dreams lie in spaces unfamiliar to them, and knowing I serve as an inspiration for my younger sister makes me feel prouder than any fellowship or leadership position I’ve obtained. It is the small moments like these that keep me motivated to reach my long-term goals.