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Journals of a First Generation College Student and Second Generation Immigrant

Summer’20 Before Freshman Year:

I have come to realize how being a second-generation immigrant has shaped me in profuse ways. As children of immigrants, our parents struggled to get here, and eventually had us, or brought us, to a country where they came to have better opportunities for themselves as well as for us. Knowing what it took, and the separate journeys faced to achieve that goal, makes it understandable to only want your child to perform at their best in all aspects of life. However, what some of our immigrant parents don’t realize is exactly how much the pressures they placed on us shape our lives – both positively and negatively. I am now coming to a realization that what was expected of me had also begun to decide the important choices I make once I leave my current realms of childhood and head into adulthood. Even though it sounds cliche, my African parents did happen to want me to go into fields such as medicine, law, or engineering. They created ideas of what success looks like to them in America, and how to uphold that narrative of success because they weren’t given the same path as we were given to be able to get there. As high school progressed, I found myself trying to check the boxes on the invisible yet still perceivable checklist made for me to pursue certain tracks in life.

The issue wasn’t that my parents wanted me to be “successful”, it’s that their concept of success had no inclination of my ideas or desires considered within that design. Among this realization, others immediately followed, and I found myself trying to decide who I was and what I wanted, and if what I wanted would still make my parents proud. There was a disconnect within myself of who I wanted to be and who my family expected me to be. There were two versions of me that I needed to start considering, and I began a journey of exploring what I genuinely want for my future. I still found myself leaning towards a track that could be okay with them, but it still felt like not having the “freedom” to explore those types of ideas on my own set me back. Simply because I realized that I can choose the path I want to take free of pressure.

Nevertheless, those same pressures also persuaded me to do well in school until I wanted to do well for myself, and allowed me to make such big decisions such as being able to go to college. The pressures of success placed on me as the daughter of immigrant parents have had a good influence on my work ethic and my respect in school, among other things. But, it also made the ideas of what I want for myself jaded and made me unsure in a time where everyone else around me seemed to finally start being sure. Above all, I do thank them for giving me the opportunity to explore options they never had and see where my journeys take me.


woman student doing homework
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Second Semester Freshman Year Pt. 1

“Upholding a narrative of success” is the biggest takeaway I have from myself almost a year ago now. Throughout my freshman year experience in COVID, I have found myself trying to uphold so many narratives- so many things expected of me.  I think the biggest thing I’ve learned since I last wrote was that navigating who my parents expected me to be can be extremely difficult because I’m still navigating who I actually am. It’s difficult to understand in what ways I’m not “upholding” a narrative of success because I first need to conceptualize in what ways my narrative doesn’t fit theirs. At some point, you realize that it becomes really tiring to keep trying to prove yourself. I feel like the college experience in itself is very uprooting, or even just the ages between 18 and 24, and that’s okay because technically it should be. But, because it causes such a large eruption that’s spewing out so many variations of yourself that you could be, that within the choices, you notice that some of them don’t meet the criteria. What I’m coming to understand is that success is still possible beyond only what is placed upon you.

I want to share these journals with you as time progresses and as I’m exposed to, absorb, and expand from the characteristics that cultivate me and other first-generation college students and second-generation immigrants because I feel that this discourse is necessary for us in ways we may not even know yet. I know somewhere out there my fellow students can relate to these dense pressures placed upon them also. My intent is to share my experiences in the most authentic way possible and create space for other folks’ encounters so we can connect and continue to grow beyond these difficulties together.

 

Stephanie Sika

CU Boulder '24

Stephanie Dzidzor Sika is a Ghanaian-American first generation college student at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her hobbies include dancing, cooking, and writing. Stephanie is currently working actively towards informing, sharing, and loving by way of her work as much as she can.
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