As first-generation college students, we go through so many emotions such as excitement and joy, but an emotion we all go through (but seem to never talk about) is the guilt and selfish feeling of being a first-generation student.
One afternoon, I laid in bed exhausted after being in class all day. I remember this flood of guilt rushing through my body. I thought to myself, “how dare I complain about feeling exhausted after sitting in an AC classroom all day while my parents are working in the fields in 90-degree weather from sunrise to sundown.” The guilt rushed over me like a tsunami. I felt as if I was being ungrateful and selfish for putting my family through even more financial burden, just because I wanted to attend a university and have these opportunities that no one in my family has ever been able to receive.
Leaving my parents to go through these privileged experiences felt guilty in a way. Almost as if I was undeserving of them. I was rethinking every action, to see what I could have possibly done to help our situation. I thought, “why didn’t I just attend community college”, “why didn’t I try harder in school” and “why did I commit to this”.
I felt so alone in these thoughts, believing as if I were the only one going through these emotions, until I brought it up to my two closest friends. I explained to them my emotions and feelings about college and to my surprise they told me that they also felt like that at times. That in a way gave me a sense of relief knowing that other first-gen students felt the same way.
So how did we overcome it?
Well to be honest, we haven’t. We are all still growing and learning to navigate this college experience with very little help. I remind myself that I am not alone, there is a community of first-generation college students who also feel the same way as I do. Learning how to speak out about these experiences and showcase them to help other first-gen students know that it’s okay to feel like this at times. I’ve also personally learned to remember that this in a way, is what my parents dreamed of. They left their country in hopes that their children would grow and have the things they never would have imagined having. When I accomplish something here at college, I run to call them over the phone to let them know because, in a way, it’s their accomplishment too. I wouldn’t be here without their unconditional love and support.
Thank you má y pá.