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Reedah Hayder

Advice to a first-generation college student

Hello, to whoever may be reading this. I am Melody, a first-generation college student at the University of Texas at Austin. To tell you a little bit about myself, both of my parents are immigrants from Michoacan, Mexico. They arrived in the United States when they were both 19. They had their first daughter at 22 and married at 23. In the next 3 years, they had both my brother and me. Yes, this means all of my siblings and I are exactly 1 year and 3 months apart. My oldest sister is 21, my middle brother is 19 and I am 18. When I ask my mom how she made it through the first 3 years of us as babies she says it’s a blur. My dad would work from dawn till dusk as a helper with a carpenter and my mom was a housekeeper while my grandma would take care of us and the rest of our baby cousins. The thing I am most thankful for is having parents that devoted all their hard work to our success. However, I am aware of the pressure this can cause most first-gen students to feel. Our parents sacrifice everything for us. In most cases, we feel the need to pay them back for everything they’ve done for us. And this can cause too much stress that sometimes isn’t necessary. 

I just finished my first semester in college and I can say I have been very mentally challenged. Walking into a campus full of diverse and intelligent students, it was very hard to not fall into imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is having feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that occur no matter level of education, experience, and accomplishments. When I walked into my first class at UT it was a cultural intelligence class, in which I am not very informed. So, of course, falling into imposter syndrome was not a matter of if I am feeling that way but of how many minutes into the class is it gonna take me to admit it. It took a few weeks into the class for me to realize that not everyone knows what they’re doing in their first semester of college so it was very likely that everyone felt the same way. Being Latina has always made me more self-aware of my surroundings. When I walk into a class I skim the room to find any other Hispanic student or to see the level of diversity there is in the class in order to mentally prepare for what is about to happen when I walk in is the only Hispanic. It’s taught me to not stay on campus after it gets dark because I don’t know what could happen if I’m not with someone I trust. 

For years, women have been treated differently for the simple fact that we are women. However, the amount of discrimination that women of color get is great beyond the number it should be. Experiences teach us that sometimes we aren’t seen as enough for others’ expectations. But what we have to learn is that we will always be enough for ourselves and for others whether they see it or not. 

My advice to any first-generation Latina student is simple, your best will ALWAYS be enough. Being in the position you are in college is already making your parents proud. You’ve done something that they weren’t given the chance to and you should be proud of how far you’ve come and how much you have accomplished because, girl, I know how much trauma Hispanic parents can cause. 

Hi! I'm Melody a current Communication and Leadership major at the University of Texas at Austin. I am a first-generation college student that comes from a small town in Mexico called Ibarra, Michoacan. Some of my current interests are cooking, coffee, dancing, social media, fashion and currently anything that relates to Taylor's Version.
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