While Noemi spent her childhood in Tamaulipas, Mexico, right on the border of Texas, she moved to Laredo, Texas, before beginning middle school, and actually considers that to be her hometown. When talking about her parents and immigrating to Texas, she describes it as a “big transition for them, just as much as it was for us,” referencing her two younger siblings. However, once she started going to school at Harmony Public School, a charter school in Laredo that focuses on math and science, something she’s always been interested in, she felt right at home.
Not every school has a supportive college-going culture, but with Harmony’s college acceptance rate being quite high, she talks about her ambition and “for me, it also just made a lot of sense to go to college. It was definitely something that I wanted to pursue.” Even with her desire to go to college though, like many students, she did wonder “can I afford to go to college?” Which is, of course, where QuestBridge comes in.
[QuestBridge] really does give you a huge community and a lot of resources. It's something that I have found a lot of value in...
Along with attending a high school that suited Noemi’s strengths and interests in math and science, she also found that because a lot of her friends were interested in pursuing college as well, there was a lot of support through the process, saying “we would help each other out with essays, or just give each other advice and keep each other going.” She says she learned about QuestBridge early on, around her junior year, and even mentions a friend who had learned about it and encouraged her group of friends, which led her to apply for QuestBridge’s College Prep Scholars Program where she got accepted. “That was kind of a motivation that I really needed to be like, ‘Okay, so I could possibly, make it as a finalist.’”
But even going into the Match with some confidence after participating in CPS, the fast process for Noemi was even a little bit disorienting. “I didn’t want to believe it until I got that acceptance letter on the same day that all the people that got ED got accepted.” But of course, it came with relief; “it was like oh my god, it wasn’t a fluke.”
When she did get the acceptance letter, she was actually still at school due to her involvement in extracurriculars, and she “was debating whether I should just wait until I got back home to just open the letter and get the decision or if just wanted to do it right there,” and she decided to seize the moment. “The great thing about that,” she explains, “is that I got to tell all of my teachers, I got to tell my brother, I got to tell my friends, and then I got to find out from one of the other finalists that he had also matched to Columbia, so also a really cool experience I got to share in that moment.”
Of course, she was definitely excited to match with Rice, which she says she first started becoming interested in during her junior year of high school when she had really begun to research different colleges and universities. “Junior year, I actually got the chance to go visit a couple of different school campuses - our school took us to go see [the University of Texas] and [Texas] A&M and also Rice, where I had never been to campus before. That was my first exposure to it.”
They were able to take a tour led by a current student and she really liked the “vibe” and the environment. “Campus is very beautiful. Honestly, I’m very happy I go here.” But more than that, for Noemi, Rice is “a different enough place to explore something different from what I had been used to” and a chance for her to “find a community where I would really be comfortable.”
Something that was also important to her was location - family is very important to Noemi, so Rice was perfect because “it was close enough to home.” But overall, it seemed like the ideal fit for Noemi, “everything from the academics to the location of it, I really liked it a lot.”
Now that she’s at Rice, Noemi studies electrical engineering and specializes in computer engineering, which she’s been interested in since middle school through activities like MATHCOUNTS and robotics. Later in high school realizing she wanted to specialize in electrical engineering through courses that taught her not only about the concepts but all the applications as well. So far, she says, she’s been enjoying her classes.
As to be expected for someone so passionate about engineering, she’s also involved in engineering-related clubs here at Rice. She is one of the vice presidents for IEEE, or the Rice Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which is an organization that she has been involved with since last year. She describes the major as being “tight-knit, [...] so being part of the club that helps to organize some of the social and also networking opportunities for them was something that just made a lot of sense to me.”
The other club she’s excited for this year is ShELECs, which Noemi tells us is a newer club “centered on building community amongst female and non-binary people that are in the ELEC [electrical engineering] major.” Because those comprise a smaller number within the Electrical and Computer Engineering department, she says she’s particularly looking forward to the ways in which ShELEC will be able to “build that network, build that community and really foster those relationships,” especially giving her a break from studying. She also mentions that the club gives the opportunity for underclassmen to get support from their fellow students. “You can definitely ask for advice, and we do have upperclassmen who are great mentors.”
Outside of connecting with her engineering classmates, we asked how the residential college experience has impacted her time at Rice. “It’s been great, because it’s like coming in with friends already.” One of her favorite things about her residential college, Baker, is that her younger brother, who also attends Rice, chose Baker as well so they could be in the same college. She’s grateful because “I know [that] doesn’t happen for a lot of siblings,” she says, laughing. (At Rice, students are assigned to a residential college at random, except for in cases where family members past or present were in a residential college.)
One other part of the community Noemi has connected with is the other QuestBridge scholars at Rice through the QuestBridge Scholars Network. Coming in as a new student, she says “it was probably the most impactful freshman year, and it’s just continued to be part of my everyday life since.” Because she’s a junior this year, her first year was actually fall of 2020, during the height of COVID-19, so the community came together to support each other however they could.
Now that she’s a junior and has been involved for a couple of years, she reflects that “it’s such a great community, because the incoming freshmen will have the same questions that I had when I was a freshman.” There’s also a supportive nature to this group that, while maybe not unique, is something she sees as really valuable for new QuestBridge students, and for her “it’s just so great that they feel so comfortable sharing those experiences in the group that we do have, and it’s something that I really love about this community.” Knowing that it can be a challenge to adjust to a new environment without support, she concludes that “it definitely would be harder being here at Rice if it wasn’t for that.”
We also asked Noemi to look towards the future and what she might want to do, and she hopes to maybe enter an industry around energy or renewables. She mentions a summer internship she’s done for a battery energy storage company that has reaffirmed her interest. And when discussing Rice’s impact on her goals, she says “I think one thing that Rice has ultimately done very well is that it has really taught me to learn and to collaborate,” referencing the community’s commitment to collaboration and support over competition between peers. “People are so open to collaboration, my friends, and some of my greatest resources in a sense, because I just learned so much from them and I get to help them out too sometimes.”
In terms of her advice for current QuestBridge students, she reiterates that “QuestBridge has honestly been so awesome for me,” but she encourages students to branch out when it comes to looking at the schools they want to apply to: “Do a little bit of research, because I feel like a lot of people are really drawn to one school in particular.” Most importantly, she emphasizes the support and resources that a program like QuestBridge provides. “It really does give you a huge community and a lot of resources. It's something that I have found a lot of value in as someone that was considering a lot of different schools and wasn't sure about what the right fit for me would be. That was something that was really helpful. But I definitely recommend that everyone just does a little bit of extra research.” After all, doing that research led Noemi to Rice University.