When I first joined the FGEN community at UP, I asked myself a lot of time, "Why did I join this community? What did it mean to me?"
It was such a hard question because until I joined UP, I never knew that the word “first-generation college student” existed. However, as scared and lost as I was, I decided to say “yes” to one of those emails from Matt Daily to join one of the events.
After the first event I attended, I knew that I belonged with them. I felt the sense of belonging that I had not found in the first few weeks I was at UP. The FGEN ambassadors were so friendly, and the things they said were so similar to what I wished I could share with people.
Fast forward to the present time, I am one of the ambassadors and have four mentees that I am working with myself. Despite the fact that I am taking a lot of classes this fall, taking the time to talk to my mentees who are mostly first-year students is the time I most enjoy because it helps to remind both me and them that we have our people we can rely on.
So, what does FGEN mean to me, you ask?
FGEN is my people. FGEN means more than just my community because the people in the community are not just people who have similar interests, but we have similar goals, challenges; and of course one thing that we all have in common is we are navigating college life together. We hear stories from each other, which are both touching and inspiring. We share each other’s struggles by holding each other’s hand and walk through the challenges together.
FGEN is my pride. Seeing my parents smiling with tears when they sent me off for college, I know that they are so proud of me for taking the leap to do something they did not get to do. At that moment, I also know that I am so proud of them because, with their time and effort to pay for my education, they earn every bit of my achievement.
Being an FGEN is not a deficit, it actually is strength and persistence. Because my parents could not go to college, they have a harder life, and to be able to get me to go to college required a lot of strength and perseverance.
FGEN is my identity. Because I could not ask my parents how to submit financial letters for college, I learned to reach out to other people, which helps to boost my confidence. Because I could not learn from my parents’ experience, I learned to take risks going into the unknown. Because I am FGEN, it is my identity that has taught me to learn so many things from not only my parents but so many others in my community that will continue to grow.
I could not imagine how hard my experience and how lost I would have been if I did not have the FGEN community, and for that, I am glad that UP has the FGEN community for students like me.
Happy FGEN Day!
Sopharoth (Rosie) Ith is a sophomore economics major. She can be reached at email@example.com.