The beginning of my first year at UP was a cultural shock. The environment was completely different from home, and I was unsure of how to fit in, so I solely focused on my academics instead. Being a first-generation (FGEN) student, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. My entire life up to this point was to make it to college, something that no one in my family ever had the opportunity to achieve, so I was unsure about seeking new opportunities and I did not know who to ask for advice. I could not go to my parents and I did not know who was available on campus. Little did I know, this is one of the first difficulties that most FGEN students encounter.
Transitioning to college introduces a variety of emotions; and everyone experiences challenges that form a roller coaster ride for four years. Many first-generation students struggle with similar obstacles, and it is the FGEN community that has been an essential part of my support system throughout my time at UP. At first, I was ecstatic to start college and move out of home. But I eventually encountered emotions such as guilt and shame, and I felt like an outcast on various occasions. I left my responsibilities and siblings at home, and I did not feel like there was a place for me on campus.
Despite my involvement on campus and academic success, my second year was the most difficult, bringing thoughts of dropping out. Having the additional resources that the FGEN program provides allowed me to receive support that I needed and could not receive elsewhere during these low moments. I have learned to make my place on campus; and being part of the FGEN community has helped me build my resilient character today.
Over my time at UP, our community’s diversity has expanded and awareness has improved. However, we still have a ways to go on this journey. First-generation students are more likely to drop out of college and need additional aid available. The college journey is different for everyone, but every student has similar feelings. For FGEN day, whether you are personally an FGEN student or not, take a moment to acknowledge the different challenges and appreciate the strength FGEN students have needed just to make it to college.
Annael Piza-Huerta is a senior accounting major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.