What It's Truly Like Being A First Generation College Student
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What It's Truly Like Being A First Generation College Student

Insight from a college senior who was the first

What It's Truly Like Being A First Generation College Student

A couple years ago, I wrote about what I experienced my freshman year as a first-generation college student. Today, as a graduating senior, I look back and reflect on everything these past four years have taught me. I realize I know so much more about myself than I did when I first wrote that article, and as a result, the insight I’d give to an incoming first-generation college student has expanded as well. First generation students come from all walks of life, which mean our experiences aren’t all likely to align. However, I think it’s safe to say my perspective isn’t as unique as I once thought. This leads me to relay the same message I shared in 2016: you are not alone. Here’s a heads up to the fishies, from a Latina senior who was the first in her immediate family to leave her hometown to pursue an education.

1. Not really knowing what summer orientation is

2. Debating whether you're really ready to leave everything you've ever known

3. Eventually being convinced that if you don't leave now, you never will

4. Your parents feeling just as lost as you with every form, every deadline, every new notification

5. The unnatural sensation that follows leaving your childhood home for a dorm

6. Being expected to share a room with a stranger after years of having to ask for permission to socialize with friends you've known your entire life

7. Fearing that your roommate won't like your culture, your skin color, your everything

8. Breathing a sigh of relief when your anxieties are discredited

9. Realizing this roommate will be your lifesaver during the pits of loneliness that accompany your homesickness

10. Hearing your accent for the first time in your life

11. Counting the people of color in each of your classes

12. Trying to understand why some people would pay for classes they are going to sleep through

13. Feeling guilty that you are sitting in this lecture hall instead of the hundreds of other students you grew up with who were just as smart, but not as supported

14. Feeling inferior to your peers before the first class even begins because they speak so much more eloquently than you ever could

15. Unconsciously creating a new accent that you feel more comfortable using in the classroom

16. Learning a long list of new terminology people automatically assume you already know

17. Realizing your previous education does not equal the coursework you are expected to have studied

18. Already being accustomed to looking out for yourself after leaving a system that never did

19. Trying not to grimace every time a more privileged peer makes an offhanded comment about a luxury they've always lived with and you never knew existed

20. Observing that some look at oppression as a competition

21. People assuming you got a free ride

22. Being afraid to speak up in class for so many reasons

23. Going home too often and always missing your family

24. Missing important birthdays and the school events of your siblings

25. The crippling feeling of self-defeat after receiving your first "C"

26. Feeling the weight of your family's sacrifice and the eyes of future generations on you

27. Trying not to cry when you talk to your parents on the phone

28. Major. Culture. Shock.

29. Realizing an education is more than just memorizing a bunch of facts

30. Learning that significant scholars and leaders from your background actually exist

31. A veil being removed from your line of sight for the first time

32. Being exposed to courses that concentrate on the history of people from your background

33. Reading books written by people with your last name

34. A sense of liberation and independence

35. Preaching your newfound knowledge to anyone who will listen

36. Your family giving you an agitated look during your said 'preaching' at holiday dinners

37. Transporting back in time to your childhood every time you visit your parents

38. Critiquing the culture you grew up with

39. Feeling yourself mature differently from the hometown friends that went to the local university instead

40. Being accused of changing as you begin to find yourself

41. Staying humble

42. Actually getting along with all of your family members after months of separation

43. Seeing your siblings look into colleges out of town like you did

44. Realizing you know just as much, maybe even more than your peers that speak so well

45. Feeling underwhelmed with your course workload as your peers break down because busy schedules have always been a part of your life

46. Learning what naps are

47. Feeling like a daredevil when you make plans without asking for permission

48. Finding out you're supposed to get internships over the summer

49. It's getting easier the next year

50. Realizing you want more than just a job after graduation

51. Learning you can do something to change the issues that held others like you back before entering college

52. A motivation led by a desire for change rather than money

53. Constantly being reminded of the money

54. Realizing that any job you get with your degree will contribute more money to your family than was ever possible before

55. Changing your major or career path

56. Stopping your world for a family member's funeral miles away

57. Coming home to your baby brother, now a man

58. Feeling guilty that you weren't around when you were needed

59. Constantly feeling selfish

60. Comparing yourself to every first generation success story

61. Anxiety and depression in an apartment bedroom

62. Feeling like no one understands the reasoning behind your frustrations

63. Finding people in the same situation that actually do understand

64. Persevering through the final stretch

65. Grinning ear to ear as your parents place your class ring on your finger

66. Planning your graduation day years in advance

67. Acknowledging that this degree is not just yours, but generations in the making

68. Dreaming about the future after graduation that is all your own

69. Dreaming about a future that is about so much more than yourself

70. A milestone that changes everything

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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