Last May, Rane Prak proudly walked the stage as a first-generation college graduate with dual degrees in Humanities and Asian Studies. During Prak’s time on campus, they became actively involved in student life, joining a number of organizations and programs including the Product Prodigy Institute, the McNair Scholars Program, the Texas Wushu martial arts team and the Korean Music Association. We wish Prak well as they embark on an exciting new journey at UCLA, where they have been accepted into the Ethnomusicology M.A/Ph.D. program.
Where is your hometown and what brought you to UT Austin?
I was born in Cambodia and emigrated here when I was very young. I grew up in this really small town in Southeast Texas called Woodville. I wanted to come to UT because it’s a really good public university, and the city’s diversity and arts scene was a big draw. It’s the live music capital of the world, and that’s really important to me because I wanted to be exposed to the arts so I can develop my own creativity and ideas.
What were some challenges you faced as a first-gen student?
When I decided to switch majors from business to humanities, one of the things that I learned is that I had to write a thesis for the honors program, which meant finding a faculty advisor. So, navigating that process of reaching out and asking for help was really intimidating. Because I am a first-generation student, I’m forced to ask for help. I’m really grateful to be part of the McNair Scholars Program because that really helped me navigate the academic world.
What is your favorite UT memory?
My favorite memory here at UT was the first time I performed with my dance organization. I was the only one from my high school and hometown to come to UT, so I didn’t know anyone on campus. I joined the Korean Music Association and became a part of their dance team. At the beginning of the semester, we were invited to perform at this showcase—and that was my first time dancing onstage in college.
What accomplishments are you most proud of from your academic journey?
I think I’m most proud of myself for embracing change. A lot of people can probably empathize with my situation because of COVID-19 and different things that are out of our control. And also balancing working and school took a lot of work, but I did a pretty good job at asking for help. I’m really proud of being able to admit that I need help. I also started counseling for the first time in college, which is something I never did in high school.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself during freshman year?
I would tell my freshman self to do what they want. When I came here, I didn’t know that I could pursue opportunities like applying to graduate school. I also didn’t know I would be able to embrace my creative and artistic side. When I ended up switching majors, I really explored how to do research, which is what I’ll continue to do in graduate school. I would tell my freshman self to do what they like and trust themselves.