EDGE / March 14, 2017

First Generation Students – Are You Ready?

Have ever thought about following a path that nobody has ever followed before? Imagine yourself in front of a big-dense-dark forest. Although you don’t know exactly what you are going to find there, something inside tells you it will be a worthy journey. When you share with your friends and family your desire to go into this unknown path, they say things like, “are you crazy?”, “why do you want to do that?”, “there are so many things to see and do in our city, why do you want to go into this forest?”, “have you thought about the dangers you are going to find?”

After hearing all these warnings, you just have two options: 1) go into the forest, because you really believe there is something for you there. 2) give up and try a path that is well-known.

I believe being a first generation student is very similar to going into an unknown forest. After all, my own life story exemplifies that. I am from a small city in Brazil. My parents didn’t go to college, my mother didn’t even finish high school. My brother was working so much that he couldn’t even think about pursuing his first degree. Besides, my family didn’t have the money to afford to send us to school.

However, at some point of my life, I decided that I wanted to get into the forest and find a different path for my life. I not only wanted to go to college but also move to a bigger city.

I remember my brother telling me, “why don’t you study in a university in our city? You know our parents can’t afford to send you to another place. You are making them feel sad because they can’t help you achieve your dream”. I can’t say that my family discouraged me. They have always been my strength! However, maybe because they never went to college or moved to another city, it was hard for them to understand why I wanted that so badly to go on a different path that was unfamiliar to them.

First-generation students, like me, accept the adventure to walk into an unknown path into the dark forest, because deep inside we know that there is something there that will help us find our treasure, happiness, or fulfillment (call it as you wish). For me, getting into the university and moving to a bigger city was the way I chose to build my independence. That was my treasure! However, getting into the unknown brings several challenges, moments in which we feel insecure and start doubting our abilities and decisions. We even meet people that make our way much harder, but that also makes us grow much faster.

If you are a first generation student, congratulations! You are about to write a new chapter not only on the book of your life, but also on the book of your family’s history. This new path will bring a lot of challenges, but also nice surprises! I am sure you will find excellent mentors on the way to give you the tools to succeed. Just keep your eyes open to the opportunities. Hopefully, in the near future, you will also be a mentor to other first-generation kids you will find in your life.


Guest post by Fernanda Carvalho

Ja'La Wourman

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