Student Andrew Zepeda shares his personal journey that led him to his passion for migration and immigration research
By Andrew Zepeda
Being a new student, as well as moving away from family, is hard for anyone to do. I was terrified to start my new journey at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) — and it took a lot for me to get here.
I come from a deported family background. My parents were deported from the U.S. when I was 8 years old.
When we arrived in Mexico, I was thrown into a new life that I never in a million years thought I would see or experience. I spent most of my teenage years living in Mexico, and when it was time to decide my education path, my parents decided to send me back to the U.S. to live with my older sister.
Coming back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico throughout my young life, I was intrigued by the different currencies, trade, lifestyle, etc. And once I was in my senior year of high school, I decided to apply for college and pursue a degree in international business.
In my third year at California State University Stanislaus, everyone around me started to ask me what my next move was going to be after I graduated. That summer, I got an internship working with people of all Latin American backgrounds, which made me realize that I wanted more in life.
I discovered I wanted to do research and let the public know how hard it is for Latin American people to make a living — and the toll migration takes on the mental health of those coming from Central and South America, especially on kids that are coming with their parents, making a journey, sometimes without food and water, for days, just to be stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border.
My background and passion led me to the school, although I was nervous to take the steps to pursue my master’s degree. But one of the best things GPS has is the summer prep program, because I started to make new friends at the very beginning before the academic quarter even started.
Now those friends I made back in August — along with my cohort, the staff, the faculty and the second-year students — have become my new family as I move forward in these challenging courses. GPS is a community that makes you feel welcome and that challenges you.
I’m currently taking the U.S.-Latin America Relations course with professor Rafael Fernández de Castro, who is also the director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies. I hope I can one day work with him doing research on immigration and migration and the impacts it has on mental health, not only in children but in adults.
No matter where my academic and professional career leads me, one thing is for sure: here at GPS, you are not alone.
Andrew Zepeda is a Master of International Affairs (MIA) ’25 candidate with a focus on international management and Latin America. Zepeda also serves as the school’s equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) intern for the 2023-2024 academic year.