We had the good fortune of connecting with Aidé Hernández and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Aidé, how do you think about risk?
I, like many others, feared taking risks. Why? Because there is much more stability, prediction and comfort in “playing it safe”. However, there is no growth in these instances. As a first-gen Latina, I would have not made it this far in my career if it weren’t for the risks I took every step of the way. My academic and social media work is not possible in isolation. This is where risk taking comes into play. For me, taking risks is needed to grow. If it weren’t for me stepping out of my comfort zone, I would have not applied for scholarships, job opportunities outside of my institution, or even launched my social media platforms, where I share my experience as a PhD student. By taking risks, I have sought opportunities for personal and professional growth. I have built an empowering social media community where I am learning from other first-gen folks in diverse fields and where I am able to mentor prospective and current graduate students. Risk taking has been essential to my outlook. If you doubt your abilities or are scared to make a leap of faith, trust me, I still have imposter moments, but through a little positive self-talk, I’m able to put myself out there and chase the opportunities that are meant for me. Claim it, manifest it, and do it. The worst thing that can happen is getting a “no” or even better, getting rejected for redirection.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I mentor prospective and current graduate students. I use social media to connect with other first-gen Latinxs navigating new systems, especially academia. I am most proud of creating an online community where I am able to share my everyday journey as a PhD student and also connect with new friends. I enjoy creating TikToks and sharing things I wish I would have known earlier as a first-gen college student.

I got to where I am today by taking risks. In order to grow in academia, I have cultivated and maintained strong relationships with mentors who guide me through my professional development. I am paying forward by mentoring other students who aspire to seek graduate school but are unsure where to begin. Doing this work is not easy. However, I often see myself in the people I connect with, so it motivates me to continue the work I am doing. I am able to overcome challenges by seeking support from other colleagues and amigas who are also on similar journeys as me, which brings me back to my stance on community care.

The lessons I’ve learned along the way is to continue being myself. Authenticity shows in this work. If you do it without passion, the fire will die out soon. Work will become tiring. I find a lot of joy in cultivating new relationships and learning from others, so I am always excited to work with others and support any way I can.

I would like others to know that the goals you set for yourself are attainable with the right support systems and resources. I, and other social media academics, are here to support and root for you every step of the way.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am born and raised in Chicago, so I strongly believe that there is richness in every corner of the city. My favorite spot to eat or hang out at in the city would have to be the local Latinx owned businesses. I grew up in a low-income predominately Latinx neighborhood, which unfortunately has been gentrified, so a way to help my community would be to support the businesses that have had a long-lasting contribution to the community, whether it is a corner store or Mexican restaurant. My pick would definitely be the Mexican restaurant though! Afterwards, I would definitely recommend checking out the lakefront on a summer night!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I always say that I did not make it this far alone. It took a community to nurture me and guide me every step of the way. I want to thank my community mentors that have inspired me to be unapologetic, authentic and proud. I also want to thank my academic mentors that taught me the possibilities of graduate school and motivated me to always challenge myself but most importantly, to believe in myself. Lastly, thank you to all my amigas who constantly inspire and motivate me. Community is essential.

Instagram: @gradconmigo

Youtube: @gradconmigo

Other: TikTok: @gradconmigo

Image Credits

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