Being a First Gen Student

Growing up, I was always taught that education is able to give us knowledge of the world around us. It fuels us with motivation and determination and helps us build opinions and different perceptions of the world. It lets us develop a set of skills to utilize everyday. These were things that my parents never ceased to remind me of. The fact that they were never given the opportunity to pursue their own higher education dreams never stopped them from reminding me of the value of education every single day.

Being a first generation student in college is something that I have been proud of since I first stepped onto this beautiful Santa Barbara campus. But, it is also something that has filled me with doubt and anxiety. It’s a label that comes with hardships and barriers, but also determination and knowledge.

Perhaps the biggest hardship I have faced as a first generation student was the lack of belonging and sense of community I felt. I found myself not being able to identify with the narrative of most of my peers around me who come from families where multiple generations had attended highly-esteemed universities. I consistently observed my classrooms, professors, and peers around me and wondered whether the university had made a mistake by accepting me. Everyone else seemed prepared and qualified while I felt lost as to where to begin, what classes to choose, and how to navigate through college all on my own. How does one begin to learn how to study or organize for a university when there was never anyone in my household to guide me towards my first steps in college?

Being the first in my immediate and extended family to go to college meant that even though my parents wanted to help me during my transition into a university, they were unable to because they were unfamiliar with the rigor and expectations of the college curriculum. The term "first generation" carries a heavy weight and responsibility that not many acknowledge. The pressure from your community, the university, and your parents to succeed becomes intense. At times, it can even cause strain to your mental health. Being an example for your younger siblings means having to navigate and succeed everything on your own so that they can receive guidance that was absent from the start of my own college journey.

Despite having to navigate through college on my own and fight off all barriers that came my way, I have gained a greater appreciation for being first generation student. I have turned the energy I once wasted feeling anxious and doubting my ability to succeed in a university to working and learning harder. I have learned to dedicate my college experience into a journey of self discovery. I found a community filled with professors, peers and campus organizations to help me navigate my time here. Most importantly, I have found that being first generation student, although a difficult experience, can also be a rewarding one. I am on my way to become the first of my family to graduate from college and prove to my parents that their years of hard work to get me to this institution wasn’t for nothing. I am a first generation student and I will succeed.


All images via Giphy