When most people think about going off to college they think of the things they see in the movies, like freedom and partying with friends. But leaving home for college is not that simple for everyone. First generation students that have grown up with active roles in their families don’t have the privilege of embracing independence and especially not at institutions that don’t always have their best interest in mind. Our peer educator, Nuria, talks about her experience being a first-generation student and shares some words of wisdom in this reflection.
You Belong Here
By: Nuria Villanueva
This is a personal narrative and a reflection on my struggles as a first-generation college student. Often times, it is easy to feel like I do not belong at a university this prestigious. I am the first in my entire family (e.g. siblings and cousins included) to attend a university. I feel the pressure of being an ideal student from all sides of my family, not just my parents. I am portrayed as a role model for my siblings, and all my cousins. The way I see it, the way I carry myself at school and around my professors is not just a reflection of who I am, but of who my family members are. I am representing my entire family.
My future is not my own. When I think of my future I take into consideration everyone that would be affected by my choices. Is my major right? Will the skills I get here prepare me for a job that pays enough for me to sustain my family members? Is this or that enough for them? I have had conversations like this with close friends who often tell me that the role I was given is unfair, but how do you explain that this is not a burden?
I often question my accomplishments. Do I deserve this? Is this right? Will I mess this up? Was this handed to me? What folks need to understand about first-generation students is most of us are family-oriented. Our accomplishments are theirs. Our struggles are theirs. This journey that we call higher education is one that we face alone, but we carry the expectations and pressure of many. We were never taught to be individualistic.
We are here to stay. We will make this institution ours. We are the future. Treat us with respect.