Student Experience at College of San Mateo
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Student Experience
Maria Gershenovich
Maria Gershenovich UC Berkeley, Boalt Law School

Growing up in Russia, as a competitive ballroom dancer, Maria Gershenovich never dreamed she would someday attend law school in the U.S. At age 14, Maria had the opportunity to join a dance studio in Seattle which meant leaving her family and embarking on a new life half a world away. She and her dance partner achieved great success and became national champions. However, her education in the U.S. did not start out on such good footing. She attended three different high schools and a community college while in Washington. Then at 18, Maria relocated to the Bay Area, checked out local community colleges and decided to attend CSM.

"I was very lucky to go CSM because that is where things fell into place for me." During a visit with a counselor, Maria learned that student government would be holding student body elections which might be a way for her to make connections with others on campus. She decided to run for student office and to her surprise, was elected as a student senator." I started going to senate meetings and attended the annual summer retreat and I soon realized that I loved being part of this group of students. They became my support network. We have remained close friends and get together for semi-annual reunions." With English as her second language, her involvement in student government helped boost her self-confidence to speak publicly, a skill that had been a challenge for Maria. Soon, she was attending college meetings and speaking up on behalf of students to committees that included faculty, staff and administrators. "CSM and student government definitely shaped my experience and it helped me come out of my shell."

"CSM became my first "real school" experience where I really got to know people - students and my professors. I took challenging classes but it was worth it. For example, in my philosophy class, I was learning how to think critically for the first time and it actually made me feel like my brain was growing from all that I was learning." Her experience was so positive that she has recruited some of her friends to enroll at CSM. "I tell people that there is a lot going on in the way of student life, the student body is very diverse, and now that construction is almost completed, the campus is beautiful!"

Upon completing her transfer requirements, Maria enrolled at San Francisco State University where she majored in criminal justice and international relations and, in spring 2011, earned her bachelor's degree. Following internships with a superior court judge, criminal defense attorney and the District Attorney's Office, Maria made the decision to pursue a career in law. She has been accepted to and offered a generous scholarship to Boalt Law School where she begins her graduate studies in fall 2011.