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Embracing Familial Bonds as a First-Generation Latina College Student

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

When I first began attending Florida State, I had no idea how much personal growth I would endure over the next four years of college.

I grew up feeling very mature for my age, and the person I was at 18 felt pretty solidly like the person I would remain for the rest of my life. I am now four years older and can confidently say that my mindset before was incredibly naïve.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned that early adulthood can be an intimidating but transformative stage of life. It’s a journey of self-discovery and identity that’s unique for everyone. For many of my peers, this journey has involved creating distance from their parents and enjoying a new-found independence.

My experience as a Latina individual has been distinct from that of my non-Hispanic peers, and I’m finally embracing it. Moving four hours away from home made me realize how important it is for me to have family nearby.

I’ve noticed that our society largely values the need for independence. Much of American culture will enter adulthood by jumping headfirst into a life entirely separate from their immediate family. While this step is admirable on so many accounts, I always felt a pit in my stomach at the thought of creating too much space between myself and my family.

Instead, I’ve found strength in nurturing my familial bonds and deepening my connection to my parents, grandparents, and extended family. This bond has helped me mature immensely, and I’ve realized the kind of adult I want to become. I want to be someone who puts their culture and their community at the center of their life. I want to cherish the people I choose to have in my corner (friends included) above all else.

The family unit plays a crucial role in my Colombian and Brazilian cultures, and I’ve found comfort in this tradition. I’ve learned to stop conforming to the typical American way of adulting and instead feel empowered by the multi-generational support system that my family provides. I feel grateful to have them by my side as I navigate the early challenges of adulthood. I’m learning so much from them in my 20s, and they are learning so much from watching me be a first-generation college student, achieving much of what they never got to accomplish.

It can feel isolating at times to curate a path that is so different from what I usually see people my age taking. I’m moving back home after my graduation this spring, and while it’s a bittersweet feeling to be leaving Tallahassee, I’m so excited about this next stage of life.

Now and then, I get a response to my plan that makes me feel like maybe I’m not doing the right thing or taking a step back instead of a step forward. I’ve learned to feel secure in nourishing my family life and accepting their generous support. My parents have taught me to be confident in my decisions, and I know that one day when they aren’t around, I will be stronger because of their impact on me.

I hope to empower other Latin American young adults to embrace their heritage as they enter adulthood and find joy and strength in doing so. For everyone of all cultures, I encourage you to remember how nourishing having a community is. From my experience, I’ve learned to lean on my friends and family and not feel pressure to overcome all of life on my own. Cherish those human connections!

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Sarah Wagner is a Staff Writer for Florida State University's Her Campus Chapter. She writes articles every other week about lifestyle, personal experiences, entertainment & culture, and FSU campus life. She is thrilled to be a part of Her Campus this semester! Sarah is a first-generation, Colombian/Brazilian college student double majoring in English (Editing, Writing, and Media) and Psychology. She is an avid reader and book lover, and is currently interning for independent press book publisher Dzanc Books where she is learning lots about the book publishing industry. If she's not cozied up reading a book, she is spending time with her family and friends!