Diary of… a student who worked as a firefighter and paramedic

Carlos Garcia is a secondyear doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at NSU’s Center for Psychological Studies. He is the president of Students United for Returning Veterans and enjoy spending time with family and friends. His philosophy in life is to stay positive, strong and happy. Carlos’ favorite quote is “Nothing is worth more than this day.”

I came to the United States at the age of two, after my family fled Cuba to escape communism. Like many other immigrant families, we arrived with nothing, but through hard work and determination, my parents were able to build a new life for us in the United States.

Their work ethic taught me many lessons as a child, mostly that I could overcome any obstacle I faced. My parents always made sure to foster my constant tenacity with anything I attempted to do. As I grew older, I knew that I wanted to make a real impact in the lives of others. When I was 18, I decided that I would repay this country for having blessed me with freedom and independence. Immediately after graduating high school, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

The last two years of my service, I spent as a reservist, which allowed me the time to engage in a new career path. I decided I wanted a career where I could continue to help others in an impactful way.

Fueled by the courage of the brave firefighters in New York City on September 11th, I became a firefighter myself, as well as a paramedic. But in March 2003, I received word that my unit would be activated and that we would be deployed to Iraq. I spent nine months in Iraq and learned a lot about myself and my ability to persevere even under the most demanding of times.

I returned home feeling very grateful, as I was one who was able to return home safely. A couple of very close friends were not as fortunate.

After being honorably discharged, I returned to my career as a fireman. It was amazing to be in a career where you could witness the resiliency of the human spirit, even during people’s most critical and distressful moments. I’d have to say that being a firefighter/paramedic is one of the most rewarding professions ever. Yet, in fall 2009, I realized that I still had more of myself to give so I returned to college after nearly 10 years away from school to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology and eventually go on to pursue a doctorate.

This was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. If I returned to school, I would be walking away from an amazing career where I had already spent almost nine years. As I had done so many times before, I followed my heart and became a full–time student at NSU.

Every single experience I have had up to this moment has taught me something about the human race. No matter what our story is, we all have one thing in common — the need to express emotions and be understood.

Deciding to pur-sue a career in psychology was an obvious choice for me. My determination to get through graduate school continues to be driven by my passion to help others, and by my desire to, one day, continue to make a difference in others’ lives.

If there is one thing I have learned in life, it is this: if you are doing what makes you happy, you will find your success, and if you do what you love, the rest will fall in to place.  Never stop chasing your dreams and never let anyone discourage you from getting to where you want to go.

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