My very own identity | Blog post #4 

The Kessler Scholars Program is in a two-year pilot circulating around first-generation college students, and my year was the first year with a cohort of all first-generation students. This identity was not something that I was aware I carried when I came to this university. No, my parents had never gone to college, and yes, I was going to attend the University of Michigan. I didn’t understand the significance of these facts.

My first year here was, as expected, a whirlwind. I met multitudes of people from different backgrounds, engaged with professors who were actually passionate about their work, and found out what it truly means to stay up all night studying. I was in awe of the school for everything it offered. I didn’t realize how “different” my experience was.

I joined quite a few first-generation student organizations; I felt as though the identity was self-empowering. Yes I am a female in the STEM field at the University of Michigan, but no, my father wasn’t a professor and my mother wasn’t the head of directors at some firm. This form of life isn’t prevalent back home in the northernmost corner of the Upper Peninsula. We all work hard, long hours, and simply carry on with life as it is. There are no protests or opinions, and everyone generally ignores politics- at least in my experience. At Michigan however, it was a whole different ballfield. I became familiar with the idea of feminism, and began to realize what it really means, and I embraced my first-gen identity.

I saw those who, sobbing over homework, called their parents for comfort. I called my mom twice- once because I didn’t know if I had health insurance, and the second because I didn’t know how to transfer money from one bank to another. I saw those who, in the midst of failing a paper, sent it to their parents who would therefore look it over and tell them where the grammar mistakes were. I still don’t believe my dad knows the difference between “there” and “their,” and I love him for it. I didn’t have the support that other students had, and I refrained from asking my parents for advice simply because I knew they wouldn’t have any.

Regardless, it wasn’t until I joined the Kessler team as a summer intern that I began to notice the underlying differences between first-gen students and those whose parents have a degree. I had to do research specific to first-gen students as a point of reference for portions of our program design, and it was there that I saw the statistics such as “90% of low-income first-generation students don’t graduate within 6 years” and “only 11% of first-generation students obtain a Bachelor’s degree.” It was these papers that made me realize how high the odds are stacked against us, but it was also here where I found my passion lies. Yes, I am a first-generation college student, but that is not all I am. I am a girl with a craving for knowledge, a girl who is building a future, and a girl who is proud.

 

 

This is a portion of the Kessler Scholars Advisory Board. I am the in the front middle-right in brown hair.

3 thoughts on “My very own identity | Blog post #4 

  • July 9, 2018 at 1:31 pm
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    What a beautifully written and thoughtful piece – thank you for sharing it! I really appreciated how you laid out some of the key moments where your perception changed and you embraced your identity in a new way, including this summer as you’ve grappled with research findings about the challenges first generation students encounter. Your ability to describe differences without valuing one to the exclusion of the other is a strength on which I hope you continue to build, both in your role with the Kessler Scholars program and as a student at U-M. I hope the rest of your work this summer pushes you to continue building on the passion you’ve written about here!
    -Kate

    Reply
  • July 9, 2018 at 3:06 pm
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    As a fellow first-gen, I really connected with the description you had about your first year at Michigan. Although the graduation statistics that you mentioned can seem pretty daunting, the amount and variety of resources available at U-M for student success continues to amaze me. Below are a few that I hope you’ll find helpful for your research:

    First Generation Gateway Lounge
    http://firstgen.studentlife.umich.edu/gateway/

    First Generation College Students @ Michigan
    https://maizepages.umich.edu/organization/firstgens

    Peer Mentorship facilitated by the Office of New Student Programs
    http://www.onsp.umich.edu/mentorship

    It’s a difficult journey to reach graduation but I promise it will be worth it. Keep up the great work! 🙂

    Reply
    • July 10, 2018 at 3:21 pm
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      I’m glad you could connect to it! You’re right, Michigan does set students up well. I appreciate you sharing the resources with me! 🙂

      Reply

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