This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.
Being a first-generation college student can be exciting because you are able to pave the way for others in your family. At the same time, it can be intimidating because there is a lot of pressure to succeed due to the fact that you are the first to continue on to higher education. Being the first Latina in my whole family to attend college added even more pressure!
I was brought to the United States from Mexico at the age of eight months, and my family worked on a farm for many years. Education was never a priority in my family; work and providing were. When I was 14, my mother took me to work in the watermelon farm where she was employed and it opened my eyes. The work was incredibly hard and I was amazed that she had been doing this type of labor for years. At that instant I knew I needed to do something different to help my family, and I decided that I had to go to college.
Selecting a school was not easy because I had no clue what I wanted, how to pay for it or even how to apply. With help, however, I was able to figure out the best fit for me and chose Eastern Oregon University.
No Walk in the Park
My time at Eastern Oregon University was no walk in the park at first. I came in as a pre-nursing student and had a very rigorous schedule my first term. I became overwhelmed because I did not have the people that I had in high school to support me; my family didn’t understand what I was going through, so they could only support me so much. I was in a new environment and it was taking me some time to adjust.
It came to the point that I wanted to quit school and just move back home. I felt like I could not handle the college life, but then I remembered the reason I came here: it was for my mother and family. I wanted to be able to support my mother one day and wanted my little sister to have my support when it was time for her to attend college. Despite my overwhelming desire to go home, I reached out to people on campus and found new mentors just like I had in high school. I got a job, joined clubs and organizations and made lots of friends, and things slowly began to fall into place. I no longer felt alone. Later, I realized that nursing was not for me and changed my major. I felt so much happier after that point.
Learning to Reach Out
I quickly learned that I could not be afraid to ask for help because, if I didn’t, the only person I was hurting was myself. There is nothing wrong with needing assistance every once in a while.
It was due to my connections, my mentors and getting involved that I was able to graduate from college and earn my degree in psychology. Two weeks after graduating from college, I was hired to work for the state of Oregon and I now have the honor of working as an admissions counselor for my alma mater.
What I would like first-generation students to know is that all it takes is that initial step to discover what will help you succeed. Whether it is finding a mentor, getting a job, being involved or just finding a group of people willing to support you, you will be more successful with a little help than you will be if you attempt it all on your own.