Roshni Desai

Roshni Desai

  • Hometown: Sacramento, CA
  • Major: Global Disease Biology
  • Class of 2021

“I often tell my friends that I feel like I’ve lived nine lives,” Roshni says of the highs and lows she has experienced in the past four years. College has been a journey, but its ups and downs have imparted valuable lessons. From not understanding the meaning of “self-care” to finding her college dream job promoting mental health resources—and realizing along the way that confidence and willingness to learn are more important than meeting every application requirement—trying new things might just be Roshni’s superpower.

Roshni Desai standing in front of the Student Health and Wellness Center
(Jezer Serafica/UC Davis)

For example, she applied for her current position as a Mental Well-Being Student Coordinator at Health Education and Promotion (HEP) not because she already felt like an expert, but because she wanted to learn. “When I came into college, I didn’t know what self-care was,” she reflects. “It’s one of those things that you might think, ‘I already do that, I already take care of myself,’ but when you apply self-care and prioritizing your mental health along with your physical health, it really allows you to properly understand what you need.”

The Power of Mental Health

As a student coordinator for the Mental Well-Being team, Roshni works on programs, outreach and self-care resources for HEP and Each Aggie Matters. “Seeing the light in people’s faces when they hear—‘something like this exists for me!’” is her favorite part of connecting students with the support they need.

Working with a diverse group of students has also helped her become more compassionate toward herself. Roshni admits that comparison can be a big issue as a college student, especially with mental health. It took time to overcome the feeling that her problems weren’t as serious as someone else’s. “[My job] helped me understand that my mental health didn’t need to be compared to other people’s. That was a really big thing for me.” Now she is a strong advocate for talking to someone when you need help, whether that’s a counselor or someone else you trust.

To Campus—and Beyond!

Roshni also uses her passion for health as an Aggie Public Health Ambassador, a job that drew her in because of its relationship to her career interests一and because it meant she could work on campus, interacting with students in person. She enjoys fostering positive interactions in the midst of the pandemic. She and the 250+ other ambassadors even get to hand out gift cards and other free swag to students who are modeling COVID guidelines on campus and around town!  

Roshni Desai standing by the Student Wellness Garden welcome sign
(Jezer Serafica/UC Davis)

And if these two roles didn’t keep her busy enough, Roshni also promotes the UN Sustainable Development Goals as part of her Global Affairs internship and helped promote UC Global Health Day as a UC Global Health Institute Ambassador

She has consistently looked for roles that take her outside her personal and academic comfort zone, though it took time and practice to cultivate this willingness to try new things. “I was definitely a person that was like, ‘No, if I don’t meet every single requirement, then I shouldn’t apply,’” she remembers. 

Her encouragement for others who still feel this way? No matter what your experience, know that you benefit everyone you meet just by showing up and being you. “I think the more confidence you have in yourself, regardless of whether you meet 70 percent of the requirements … you’re getting your name out there. And now that they’ve met you, they’re also getting something out of it. Because chances are, they’ve never worked with a student like you before. You bring more to the table than you think.” Now, whatever her role, it’s impossible to miss Roshni’s excitement to learn and grow.

“You can tell the difference between someone who’s talking about things that they’re really passionate about versus things that are on their résumé just because,” she laughs, “and I hope it came across that I’m very excited about the things I’m doing!” And it’s true—Roshni’s all-in enthusiasm for her work is unmistakable.

The Future is Bright

With graduation on the horizon, Roshni is looking forward to finding a career in public health where she can use what she’s learned as a Global Disease Biology major. She’s especially interested in health promotion and the prevention of infectious diseases, as the COVID-19 pandemic has proven again what a serious threat they can be. But no matter what job Roshni takes on, passion and openness are the most important things for her. In work or in school, she believes the key is to do what you love, not just what you feel you should do. 

Her advice to other students is to follow your own timeline and do what’s best for you—and to know that it’s okay to change your mind or decide you don’t like something. “I think everyone has so much potential, and it’s hard to find that early on. It took me three years to find that,” she says, smiling. “The future is very … unknown, but there’s a certain peace with it, which is quite comforting.” Lean into that peace and keep following your interests, she says—“you’ll fare far better than you think you will.”

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About the author

Sophia Meals, a fourth-year Communication major, is an Editorial and Content Creation Assistant at Student Affairs Marketing and Communications.

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