Students of SPU: Balancing family values, personal dreams

Struggles and victories of one student’s changing majors

Keegan Daley, Staff Reporter

Cleobelle Ramos taking a break in martin square after a morning class in Demaray Hall. She recently switched her major to psychology and plans to help those with mental health problems. (Davery Bettger)

Many students struggle to find the right major when entering a university. Some choose a major based on their parents’ wishes rather than their own interests, but some also eventually find their way to their true calling. 

Junior Cleobelle Ramos recently changed her major from nursing to psychology. 

“I feel like through the years I’ve just been trying to be a nurse because it’s what was kind of expected of me,” Ramos said. “My parents had always been thinking that I would go into the medical field, and it’s very typical for Filipinos.”

Ramos grew up in the Philippines and moved to the United States when she was in fourth grade.

“My move to [the United States] definitely put pressure on me because I feel like for a lot of immigrants, there’s an expectation that you have to reach,” Ramos said. “It all comes back to family. I’m very family oriented so I strive to do what my family expects of me.”

When she was a teenager, she felt torn between the two sides of herself, striving to reach her family’s aspirations for her while also navigating American high school life.

“My parents always told me, ‘you are still Filipino, do not throw all of our values away’ and as a child, that’s hard,” she said. “I did grow up in the Philippines, so I still have those values, but I also want to engage in this new culture.”

When Ramos got to Seattle Pacific University, she went into nursing because that is what she felt she should do. 

Cleobelle Ramos and her parents and Lola pictured in the Philippines when Ramos’ father came to visit for her birthday. (Courtesy of Cleobelle Ramos)

“Coming from an immigrant background, I think that the American dream idea is a big influence as to why immigrant parents are very ambitious when it comes to what their kids could be,” she said. “To talk about their kid as a doctor or a big lawyer or engineer is their biggest flex after all the sacrifices that they’ve made.”

Ramos did not feel passionate about what she was doing or where she was headed.. 

“There were definitely some low points where I was like ‘I don’t know if this is right for me. Is this something I’m doing for myself, or my parents, at that point?’”

After thinking it over, Ramos decided to talk to her parents about switching her major to psychology. Her family ended up being more supportive than she thought.

“It was definitely hard, considering what they were already expecting to happen. They’ve been really supportive, I don’t know if I was just being hard on myself compared to what they were really doing,” she said.

She felt the weight of what was culturally expected of her, and she was putting pressure on herself because of that, but in the end her parents were supportive of her decision.

“The shift [to psychology] wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” she said. “The Psychology Department is amazing, they’re like the most genuine people I’ve ever met.”

Cleobelle Ramos’ (pictured in the center) kindergarten class graduation in the Philippines. (Courtesy of Cleobelle Ramos)

Ramos, who has had struggles with her mental health in the past, wants to help break the stigma surrounding it. This desire contributed to her shift in majors.

“There’s a lot of stigma around mental health that needs to be unpacked, it is real, it is worth researching, and to help others go through it would be something I imagine myself doing.”

Even though nursing was not the right path for her, Ramos says that working in Psychology will still give her the ability to help people; this time not just physically, but mentally.

Her move back home during the pandemic strengthened her relationship with her family. Living by herself these past two years at SPU has given her a better understanding of how her parents think.

“I think that’s what my parents and I didn’t have before, space. The time to actually miss each other,” she said. “I feel like we definitely have a better understanding of one another.”

Through all of this, Ramos is happy that she trusted herself to make the decision to change majors. 

“Keep pushing through. If it’s taking a little longer than planned, just trust the progress. I come from a religious background and therefore I had always put my faith into God,” Ramos said. “Always think about how far you’ve come, all those other challenges that you went through, and how it has made you stronger.”