Here I am, almost finished with my first year of college as a first generation student and I am shocked with what I have accomplished. Last year I took a course called Power and Politics in America–a class full of seniors–and at the end of the course my professor told me that I had stood out so much in the class that he wanted to take me with him on a research trip to Panama during Spring Break. Less than two weeks ago I returned from that trip with experiences of a lifetime. Just because you are a first generation student doesn’t mean that you can’t go and search out amazing experiences like the one I had in Panama. I learned that everything is possible if you just work hard enough, no matter what your background may be.

While in Panama I saw so many things that made me appreciate my life so much more. The sidewalks in the city were riddled with potholes, open manholes, sewage, and litter. People were so poor there that they resort to squatting in abandoned buildings and just hope that they aren’t kicked out by the government when it decides to build an establishment where they are residing. It could definitely be seen that the power that be in Panama are first and foremost concerned with the upper class and the lower classes are suffering because of it. Pollution flows through the streets and is looked at as normal by the community. The political landscape was even worse. The President of the the country is also a very successful–at times very corrupt–entrepreneur that owns a chain of Supermarkets. He uses these Supermarkets to advertise for his party in various ways. Obviously, this is illegal in America because it’s seen as intrusive and doesn’t provide a fair environment for the politically passive to vote without any influence from corrupt entities. The president of the country embezzles money from the country and uses it for his own benefit.

Overall, this country could use help from “firsties” like us once we finish our college education. I thought that I would never get the chance to experience another country in my first year, as the first person from my family to go to college but I did. My teacher saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself and I know that your professors will see the same thing. We have ambition like no other because of our background and it’s clearly evident in everything that we do. Believe in yourself,  all of your “firsties”, and you will get to experience amazing things!