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What I have to say about future-centered anxiety as a first generation student  

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

The acute feelings of anxiety one feels may vary throughout college; there are plenty of unknowns one has to sit with throughout these four years. It’s an uncomfortable place to be in, especially for someone who does not deal well with not having control over the future A.K.A me (and everyone else). 

College has taught me two very important lessons so far: to be more patient with myself and to let myself make mistakes. These two things are what help me cope with my constant worry about my future as a student. I am a first generation college student, and without speaking for all first-gen students I can say that my experience so far has been worry-some. Mostly because of myself, I tend to circle around the same negative thoughts and worse case scenarios. I imagine what my life will look like as a senior in college and in grad school, and just feel my stomach drop. There is so much planning ahead to do in college that constantly makes me feel like there is a vast amount of room for error, and everything could go wrong. However, this is where I can stop myself from spiraling and feeding into my fear. 

It is  important to understand first why I feel scared. Scared picking the “wrong” major, scared of not meeting the “right” people, scared of not “networking” enough. These feelings are valid, especially for those students who lack a support system that is knowledgeable in those fields. At first I felt like MSU was going to swallow me whole; there were too many people, too much information, and too many majors, and I still feel overwhelmed some days. However, it is giving myself time and accepting that I feel scared that has made it easier to deal with the future and what it brings.

Shortly after accepting my fear of failure and error, I made sure I communicated that with as many loved ones as I could, regardless of their knowledge of the ins and outs of a higher education. There is a humbling aspect of having to express these feelings after wanting to leave my home to explore something else. However, there is always a positive to having someone that cares about you know how you are feeling. My mother offers me words of advice that bring me peace and encouragement, regardless of it bringing tangible outcomes or answers. Oftentimes that is all one needs instead of receiving a concrete solution.

Sitting with my fears and communicating them to other people are the initial steps I take to try to get over a moment of anxiousness. However, if you’re anything like me, words of advice can only go so far; there has to be some sort of action afterwards. It can get exhausting but knowing that I asked for help or tried to resolve my problem to my greatest extent helps me sleep at night. Whenever I feel like I do not know enough about my major or certain opportunities, I try my best to take action; regardless of how badly I want to be unaware of all the options and decisions that may come. Talking to professors, going to advising appointments, asking questions, doing research, and talking to other trusted adults are all things I try my best to do whenever I face uncertainty. Now I understand this is not rocket science, however, sometimes our issues and anxieties can complicate something so much that it seems unbearable to resolve. 

There are so many what-ifs I’ve faced throughout my freshman year. I worry about the value of my degree once I graduate, and if it’s smarter to pick this major over that major. The reality is, I know what I want to do and I know what I like. The road ahead to accomplish such a thing just looks scary and unapproachable, but I know it is possible and attainable, as people have done what I want to do before. But for some reason, that is where the disconnect happens. Believing in myself is something I’m still working on.There are many times I’ve felt incredibly tiny and clueless as to what I want to do and who I want to be. I wonder where I’ll get a job, and if I’m making the “right” choices. I remind myself every single day that I am here due to the hard work of many people in my family. 

Anxiety makes situations incredibly negative, and I’ve learned that it has stolen the worth of my hard work and my parents’ work to get me here. There is much uncertainty in life, but there is such a relief in thinking, “This will work out. I will succeed.I am smart enough.I deserve success.”Sometimes it feels illegal to think those things; almost as if believing in myself is even more horrible than underestimating myself. However I am allowed to believe that I will figure it out,  I will find a job,  I will make friends, and I will know where I am meant to be. I’ve often found myself feeling fearful of opportunities in life that seem too risky, or potentially too rewarding for me. Although I have not been able to fully accept this, I know that I am allowed to experience things for myself. I am allowed to explore, try, and take advantage of these years. I am allowed to be selfish in my personal development, and so are you!

In my personal experience, being a first generation student comes with many burdens . There are mixed emotions of anger, pride, jealousy, resentment, sadness, guilt, and freedom. I understand that I am not the only college student facing these emotions, however, there is a unique pressure and longing of success that sits on my shoulders. It produces anxiety and negative feelings that feed into my fears and insecurities of not being smart enough, successful enough, or good enough. This process of growing into myself and being okay with what I offer and my efforts is a process that will help me better accept my circumstances, my fears and my feelings. Being aware and accepting of my feelings, having a coping mechanism that helps me emotionally regulate and take action, and having positive affirmations are all steps to make this college journey worth it. 

My name is Sara and I am finishing up my Freshman year at Michigan State University. I am pursuing a Bachelors degree in Social Relations and Public Policy through James Madison college. I am passionate about philanthropy work and am interested in working in International Law or possibly land a job at UNICEF. When I’m not in class or doing homework I’m usually at the dining hall or eating snacks I’m a huge foodie. I love to try new foods and I especially love Mexican food because I am Mexican and lived there for several years. I also love music, Lana, Sza, Kali and so many other artists. I love going on walks and listening to podcast and I am currently trying to learn French.