Sharmie Azurel ’23 (left) and Juliana Tapia ’23

Sharmie Azurel ’23 and Juliana Tapia ’23 have learned many lessons during their three and a half years at Barnard. Azurel, who hails from Los Angeles, is pre-law; Tapia, from Belleville, New Jersey, is pre-med. While they grew up on opposite sides of the country and strive to take their places at different spots on the professional spectrum, one of the most important lessons they’ve learned at Barnard is the value of each other’s company.

“Doing life together has been great,” said Azurel. Both identify as first-generation college students. Both found the programming offered at Access Barnard essential, and both were mentees — and then mentors — in the Access Barnard Peer Mentoring program. “We are an Access Barnard success story,” said Azurel with a smile. Tapia nodded in agreement.

“Access Barnard has really helped empower me during my years [at the College],” said Tapia. “We’ve really grown into ourselves [while] in this role.” For three years, Azurel and Tapia have collaborated as social media managers for the department, capturing still photos and editing videos.

"It’s a very strong community setting, where [we have] the space to talk out things that might be going on in our lives,” said Azurel. “There are resources [that help students] to find housing or post-grad opportunities. That’s really where the conversation happens.”

The above video shows one of many Instagram collaborations between Azurel and Tapia.

When they first met, during the summer of 2019 in pre-orientation, the two first-years connected in passing. It wasn’t until the pandemic sent them to their respective corners of the country that they became deeply connected. They were then sophomores and serving as Barnard pre-orientation leaders.

“We were sent home, and we were like, ‘You’re in New Jersey. I’m in California. This is weird,’” said Azurel. “But as we were working together, we just hit it off. Since then, we’ve spent every summer together.”

“We called each other and opened up really quickly about everything [that was] going on in our lives,” added Tapia, “whether it was personal or academic. We had a lot in common, so we’ve been friends ever since.”

Through the years, their social media work, and their summer jobs and internships, Azurel and Tapia have found creative ways to draw strength and support from one another. When the academic pressure was high, they helped each other take a breath, which often involved checking out the restaurant scene in Manhattan. (Their favorite is Playa Bowls.)

Now, as seniors, they are thrilled to be living on the same floor at Sulzberger Tower. Both have plans to take gap years after graduation to work in the City and to volunteer at organizations in medicine and law.

"We want to spend time doing more of what we’re passionate about, like in our communities,” said Azurel. “While [Tapia] is involved in Latinx community work, I am doing the same in my Asian American community. We want to explore this before entering grad school and see what New York City offers beyond 116th and Broadway.”

After graduation, Tapia will work at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Azurel will be taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in the fall and applying for the next cycle, which is when Tapia will take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

“We’ll be apartment hunting together!” said Tapia. “We’re going to be able to have this connection. I mean, we’re definitely going to continue to be best friends. I definitely see that.”