Hey all! My name is Mandy and I’m so excited to be joining the I’m First! family. For my debut post, I figured I’d tell you guys a bit about myself. I’m a senior at Boston University studying Communication Studies (so a combo between Public Relations and Advertising) and a minor in History. I was also born and raised in Miami, Florida. My family is Cuban with a dash of Lebanese so moving to Boston was quite the culture shock. 

Being in my senior year, I’ve been increasingly nostalgic about my college years. I’ve definitely grown a lot as a person, but being a first-generation student, a lot of that growth came from trial and error. First-Gen is a badge of honor; for many, it means that you’re the first in your family to attend a four-year university in the United States. Often it also means that generations before you had worked to get you to where you are today. It’s a blessing, but it can also be a curse. Personally, there were times where I felt like the entirety of my family name was weighing on me, directly dependent on my academic success. It’s a lot for an eighteen-year-old to process as she’s embarking on the first step of the rest of her life. And honestly? Three years later, that feeling still lingers. 

All my successes in my academic and professional careers are acknowledged by my parents with the constant reminder of how far our family has come and how far I will continue to take us. It felt prophetic that it would be me to be the first to go to college. My whole life I was raised on this pedestal that I would be the one to make this giant step in my family’s legacy.

Like I said, this pressure isn’t easy to handle for everyone. I’ll list off some thoughts that kept me grounded through the years. 

You got where you are because of your abilities, your determination, and your drive. 

While your family’s sacrifice may have paved the way for you, your successes are still your own. Take time to recognize the progress you’ve made and celebrate the wins. In a similar way, check-in with yourself and make sure you’re okay.

Even if it doesn’t feel like it, there are always people in your corner.

Whether it’s family, friends, your professor, or the lady who works in the dining hall; there is always someone rooting for you. Always reach out to others and don’t be afraid to admit that you need help.

You are not alone.

One of the most difficult aspects of being first-gen is the fact that many of us were not raised in an environment that trained us to attend career fairs, have a successful interview, or even how to attend office hours with a professor. We are quite literally pioneers for our families and college is uncharted territory. We don’t know exactly what to expect and once we get here, we are often left to figure it out for ourselves. One of the best things I did to navigate this was to join Boston University’s organization for first-gen students as soon as I got on campus. It was run by someone who was a first-gen faculty member, staffed by first-gen graduate students, and filled with a community of first-gen college students from all backgrounds. Having a community that understands you and grows with you is valuable beyond belief. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg for my experience being first-gen, but I’ll put a pin in it for now. Again, I’m so excited to join this community and I can’t wait to interact with you all.