College is a time where friends can either make or break the entire experience. It’s true that being first-generation can really make that even harder than the average student, because it’s not easy to explain some of the things you have to experience and explain why those are different than the people you are meeting. In general, though, social experiences are some of the most important in an overall college experience.

I came into my college with 35 other students from my high school. I was also a part of a scholarship program full of other students who were first-generation and low-income just like myself. With this being said, I didn’t have much trouble trying to find people that understood me in college. However, as time went on throughout my first year, I had trouble gaining new friends while everyone else I knew already had new groups. This is not to say that those friends I had that were all first in their families as well were bad people to hang out with, because those friends are the best I’ve ever made in my life. I was just yearning for people who weren’t always going to define me by my income.

I never knew how to explain that I was first-generation and I never knew how to explain that I couldn’t afford near what they could. People always told me that I didn’t have to share these things with those I was getting to know, but I always felt that I needed to share these things. If I could tell an incoming student one thing, I would tell them that it’s not necessary to tell new friends that you’re first-generation. Yes, it’s an important part of you, but it shouldn’t be something to define yourself always as.

Finding friends is scary. But if you always stick to what your interests are, abide by your own values and beliefs, and give new things a chance, you’re sure to have a group of friends who you’ll be able to love for a lifetime.