Academics People and Community

Resilient student turns uncertainty into academic strength

A late start couldn’t hold graduating senior Renee Sobaram back from obtaining her bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami’s School of Communication.
Renee Sobaram
Photo courtesy of Renee Sobaram

Renee Sobaram vividly remembers the day the course of her life shifted. Three years ago, the now graduating senior felt she was floundering in uncertainty while studying sociology at a local community college. 

At the time, Sobaram didn’t dream of attending the University of Miami—or any university for that matter. Because of her dad’s encouragement, after taking a gap year to travel and figure things out, she agreed to take a tour of the Coral Gables campus.

“Taking that tour changed me as a person,” said Sobaram, a media management major with a double minor in theater arts and religious studies and the daughter of Richard Sobaram, executive director of parking and transportation at the University. “It was a journey to get where I am today. I’m 25 and I’m just obtaining my bachelor’s degree. I’m not embarrassed by that at all—I am proud.”

Today, the Pembroke Pines native said she can’t thank her parents enough for their continuous motivation. Four days a week, Sobaram commuted an hour each way—sometimes more—to campus. On the mornings when it was difficult to get up and out the door, her mom, Maxine, would send her text messages giving her the inspiration she needed.

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During her time at the University of Miami, Sobaram networked her way to success. After she completed her first college internship with advertising agency Kommercial Kings, it became evident that she belonged in the School of Communication rather than continue to pursue her initial major of sociology. She later interned at Nickelodeon and fitness company Burn Bootcamp, before landing her final internship with University Communications. 

“My internship with the University Communications department has been one of the most memorable moments of my college experience,” said Sobaram. “During my time there, I developed in so many areas, not just my writing, but who I am as a person.”

When she’s not on campus, Sobaram is hard at work for others and herself.

“While I was in school, I started a business called Renee Sunita Fitness, where I provide personalized workout and meal plans for clients,” said Sobaram, who gained attention on social media for posting before and after photos of her own weight loss journey. “One day—once all of this coronavirus clears up—I want to rebrand and start selling athleisure apparel as well.” 

Before the coronavirus pandemic, she worked as a hostess at a local restaurant. Since the quarantine, businesses have been forced to temporarily close, leaving many unemployed. But thanks to the skills Sobaram garnered as an undergraduate at the University, it presented her with a new position—the restaurant’s marketing manager.

“When I first started at UM, I had this thing where I thought I had to be a doctor or nurse,” she explained. “But you don’t. You have to do things for yourself. Follow what you feel is best for you.” 

Not only have Sobaram’s family and friends played a major role in her success but she received a boost from her professors, too. She had assistant professor Robyn Walsh, lecturers Larry Olevitch and Winston Warrior, and professor Michelle Maldonado behind her giving her the space to be herself and genuinely wanting to see her succeed, she said.

In addition, Sobaram relied on herself. During moments where she didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, she turned to the saying “A girl who is going to do big things, cannot let small things get to her” to boost her confidence.

“So, it’s basically like if anyone is trying to make you feel inferior to not let it distract you,” she said. “You can’t get distracted by things that aren’t going to mean anything later on. You have to continue, don’t stop. You might feel outside pressure to be a certain way but just follow your dreams because in the end it will all pay off.”

Sobaram plans to continue her education at the University of Miami and enroll in a graduate program in the fall.