Navigating through College as a First-Generation Student

By: David

As a first-generation student, the struggles and barriers of navigating through college can often be difficult and strenuous. Scholarships, finances, campus resources, college courses, communication with faculty & staff, you name it. So what defines a first-generation college student? Well, according to a research article published by Maietta back in November, she states, “The two most widely used definitions of FG college students are 1) those students whose parents matriculated, but never graduated with a bachelor’s degree and 2) those students whose parents never persisted past a high school diploma.” (Maietta, 2016). My parents came to the U.S. as immigrants after the Vietnam War never achieved a college degree, therefore I, myself, am a first-generation college student. In today’s post, I’ll be highlighting my experience as a first-generation student (FGS) and how I have navigated through college. With that being said, let’s get started!

david-first-gen

Capitalizing on Campus Resources & Opportunities  

The most significant method for me in navigating through college as an FGS was to capitalize on opportunities and resources provided by departments, student organizations, and offices around campus. More than often, I find that students take these opportunities and resources for granted and make zero effort in leveraging these amazing resources to benefit their college career. From my experience in working in various departments and offices around campus, I have come to realize one thing and that is that the folks who work and operate in a campus setting are all dedicated to helping students. In other words, USE YOUR CAMPUS RESOURCES! Check out the amazing opportunities and resources through academic and campus life departments.

Though this is a case where it is easier said than done to actually capitalize on these opportunities and resources, I would like to chime in on my thoughts and feelings as an FGS. Coming into college, I was very hesitant in using and seeking out campus resources and opportunities. One reason was that I simply felt bad for just using the resources available. Personally, I hate the feeling and concept of using someone to benefit myself and that’s exactly how it felt like at first when using these campus resources. To me, it didn’t feel right setting up meetings and appointments to talk over the things that benefitted me only. My turning point with this mentality was when I first got involved with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) in my second semester of my first year. Through a series of activities and meetings with the ODI staff and student organizations, I was able to gain this trust and understanding that staff and faculty alike are here to serve students because they love doing that exactly. Once I understood that, my experiences as an FGS totally flipped 180 degrees for the better.

Connecting with Staff & Faculty

In addition to leveraging campus resources and opportunities, another asset that truly helped me was connecting with the staff and faculty on campus. Setting up to meet with career counselors, attending office hours, asking career related questions, self-disclosing about troubles as an under-representative minority, the list goes on. I cannot recall how many times where I’ve sought out support and guidance from staff and faculty in situations of dilemma. As the first one to attend college, I don’t have many personal connections to rely on in terms of understanding the college life. Thankfully, I’m extremely fortunate to have found a support system that was able to help me navigate through college when I felt stuck and alone in regards to college life. An important thing to keep in mind as an FGS though is that my positive results required me to take action and make the first step in asking staff and faculty members for support. I realize that it was often hard for my faculty members or staff to realize that I was struggling, and therefore required me to put my pride down and ask for help. I think this is common as well in FGS as this sense of pride is something that is often hard to overcome in a college setting. In closing, staff and faculty members are the pillars of support & generators of knowledge and serve as role models & mentors for ALL students and are folks who students seek for motivation and inspiration. From personal to professional development, the staff and faculty members of campus are the keepers of wisdom that guide students to success through moral and academic support.

Conclusion

With that being said, my experiences as an FGS are not limited and exclusive to just campus resources/opportunities and connecting to staff and faculty. Stick around for next time as I’ll continue forth in sharing more personal experiences as a first-generation student. In the next post, one key concept will focus on the importance of social groups and how important it is to have them. Until next time, I urge you to start thinking about your social groups, how you came to establish them, and what role you and your peers serve within the group. As always, stay gold friends!

Of Possible Interest:
Maietta, H. (2016). Unfamiliar Territory: Meeting the Career Development Needs of
First-Generation College Students. National Association of Colleges and Employers Journal.

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So It’s Finals Week Again

By: Cassie

That’s right folks, you know that feeling of impending doom, yeah that means finals week is here again. This point of the semester is all about getting things done. It’s about reaching that goal of finishing your research project, boosting your GPA, trying to get that important internship or job, or maybe just making it through the rest of the semester with your sanity. Meeting these goals may seem like the toughest thing in the world right now, but I’m here to tell you that we are all in the same boat and there are so many people around you who are experiencing the same thing as you.

bulldog-staying-warm

I’ll start with me as an example, I started this blog post five times before I found something I wanted to talk about. That’s right, FIVE times. I was also trying to write this blog post on top of the four group projects I’m working on. I also am thinking about the four final exams that are coming up and how I need to start studying for those. My mind was just in a million places at once and I just couldn’t seem to collect my thoughts. I know that many of you may be having a similar experience right now and that’s why I’m just here to remind you we all are struggling. It is okay to not have it together during these last hectic weeks of the semester. We all have papers piling up. We all have that member of our group project who doesn’t seem to be helping. We all are thinking about all the due dates that are approaching at a rapid pace. It’s okay to be stressed, it’s okay to struggle, and it’s okay to be overwhelmed. I’m just here to remind you that you have so many resources (like us!) and people around you who are here to support you and tell you that YOU CAN MAKE IT! You are awesome and you can do this!

Also included in today’s post…a cute bulldog. Because who doesn’t love a little virtual pet therapy? (Source)

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Keeping Up Your Motivation

By: Willow

It’s that time of year again, Halloween. Personally I love Halloween, but a big downside to this time of year is the crazy-ness of school. As much as I all like to think I’m a perfect student that never needs help this time of year, I always find myself getting overwhelmed and spreading myself too thin. So, I wrote this to help you remember how to keep your head up this time of year.

Now I know you already know these things, but it’s always nice to have a reminder before you become buried in tears and stress.

Ask for help. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. Usually, professors are good people who want to you do well, if you tell them you’re overwhelmed – and not just looking for an easy way out, they almost always will work with you to find a solution.

Do your reading. I know it is so easy to skip it, usually no one will notice and you’ll survive, but when you don’t read for class you end up spending 4 days before your exam trying to figure out what you missed. And it’s horrible, so try to stay on top of it before you crumble under it.

Don’t work more than you can handle. It’s ok to ask for less work during a super crazy week at school. If you know you’re going to have 2 papers due and 3 exams in the same week, there is no shame in asking your boss for less hours. I know it can be hard when you have to pay rent and eat, but try to remember your main goal right now is to get an education.

It’s ok to say no. Did someone ask you to cover their shift at work? Or watch a scary movie on a weeknight? I know you want to say yes, but sometimes it’s far better in the long run to say no.

Go see a doctor if you need one. If you go to UMD, you have health care professionals available to you right on campus, it’s awesome. And you’re paying for them in your tuition so you might as well use them. Don’t forget about counseling, your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

Life is hard. Don’t make it worse than it has to be. Happy Halloween Bulldogs.

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Looking Towards Senior Year

By: Logan

For my final blog post of the semester I decided to reflect on my junior year here at UMD and what I have learned. This past year has been a great learning experience and I am very excited for my senior year. Although I’m excited, it is also bittersweet. I’m excited to get into my most applied classes, but having to face the reality of the real world can be intimidating. I know no matter what I do, I will try to make the most out of my years here at UMD and I will try to make as many memories as possible.

My Junior year has been an interesting year so far. I have involved myself in new organizations, made new connections, and took the most credits I have taken in my collegiate career. One thing I have learned this year is that it is important to involve yourself in as much as possible early on, this way you will have plenty of connections once you reach junior and senior year. If you wait until late in your college career it will be more difficult to find these experiences and make these connections. I can assure you once you are an upperclassman you will thank yourself for being involved early on. If you involve yourself early you will make yourself more available to leadership positions, as well as potentially make new friends and connections. Another great piece of advice would be to try and become close with your professors. By doing this early on you can expose yourself to new experiences, such as research opportunities. Also, you may need a professor to write you a letter of recommendation for a job or graduate school. And I mean, it never hurts to be close with your professors. This will make it easier for you to approach them with questions or concerns you may have about your academics.

Logan Sr Yr

Junior year is a very important time in your collegiate career. It is the time where you are not yet applying for full-time jobs and you can really figure out what you want to do after you graduate. Many people use this time for an internship, which is smart. If you get an internship in your junior year and realize you do not want to pursue that exact career you still have time to get another internship or change your career path. I am using this time to develop my skills and review all of my potential options for when I graduate. I am applying for different summer internships to gain new experience and see if I would enjoy certain types of work. The most important thing is to remember to be proactive. You do not want to come into your senior year with no experience, no skills, and nothing to put on your resume. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to get a related job or internship. You can join clubs or organizations that can give some related experience or leadership positions. I think junior year is a great time for self-reflection. You should identify where you are at in your career, and where you want to be within the next few years.

My senior year will be a very important time. I am going to take an internship preparation course my first semester, and then an internship my spring semester. I am very excited for this because even if I do not get an internship this summer I will be able to complete an internship during the school year. I am also excited to take my most upper division and most applied coursework. I have thoroughly enjoy my courses so far and I am excited to learn more and complete my education. But even in my senior year I will need to remember to stay proactive and take any opportunities presented to me. I am considering becoming a Teacher’s Assistant for one semester as well. Like I said earlier, involving yourself in things will never hurt you, but not involving yourself may come back to haunt you. My most important piece of advice would be to make the most out of your college career. You are a student in an amazing University, take advantage of the opportunities presented to you!

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Patrick Tomasso

Make It Work

By: Willow

Willow post photo

As a human, we all have to do things we don’t want to do, things that we aren’t good at, and things that we just darn tootin’ hate. Unfortunately, those things you hate are almost always unavoidable. This blog post is about how to make those horrible things a little less horrible and more doable.

My idea for this blog post started when my roommate and I took at look at our apartment and realized it was pretty gross. Neither of us are neat freaks, we’re both busy, and not home that much. With the two of us not making cleaning a priority, our apartment had quickly become a box of shame. Realizing this was a problem, we decided to make a plan to make something we both hated, cleaning, work for us. We decided to make a chart where we would earn stickers for cleaning, for instance doing the dishes equals one sticker. Once we get so many stickers, we’ll have a roomie pizza party. Now I know a lot of people would look at this system and think we are ridiculous for having to have a sticker chart for two grown women to clean. This may be true, but this is what works for us. And that’s ok.

I think a common mistake people (including myself) make is thinking there is only one right way to do something. That is false! There are a million right ways to do something. If you need to lock yourself if your room and not talk to anyone until you finish your midterm paper, that’s ok. If you need to go into every office hour in order to pass a class, that’s ok.

College is hard, and it is impossible to everything on your own. Get help from people around you, make goals, find ways to reach those goals and do your best. There is no shame in sticker charts.

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Emerging Majority (My Path)

By: PJay

Remember the first time you came into college? Wasn’t it scary because you didn’t know where anything was, but yet, you were able to ask someone for help? And do you recall when you missed your family, but you got over it since you knew you were going to see them in a couple of days? Now imagine wanting to see your family but you know it wouldn’t be possible because they are probably lost in the jungle that is half way across the world. Or picture needing to know how to do something or get somewhere but not being able to get that point across to anyone due to a language barrier. So many of us overlook other’s shoes. Especially our immigrant parents.

If you are a minority, then there must be many reasons to why you have decided to continue on with your educational path. We may all come from different cultures, and yet, all of us know the importance of grabbing a hold of the opportunities that our parents weren’t allowed to have. Our parents have left their families, friends, and homeland so that we would not suffer from the pain that they had to deal with. So if we were to throw away all of our dreams and goals, it would be the same as throwing away their dreams as well.

What is your path?

There are times when I have questioned myself, “why am I here?” (in college) due to frustration from my back to back exams I haven’t studied for, or the eight pages of math homework I haven’t finished. Whatever it is, it can get to me pretty hard, but I know I cannot quit and that I am not alone. Many people who grew up with English being their second language know what it is like feeling there is twice the pressure to work hard in school. Mainly because of our parents.

I am Hmong, and I come from a family of immigrants. Growing up, no one in my family went to college. I was the first to leave my family and explore a whole new world my parents never got to seek. Sometimes, being the first generation to go to college can be prideful, but it also comes with a lot of responsibilities. Mostly, I am constantly nagged to be the role model for my younger sibling, and cousins. But, I know they just want me to be the best that I can be, which really isn’t much to ask for.

When the puzzle pieces are put together, we must understand that our parents love us very much to get us to where we are. They are the number one people who have dealt with so many people looking down on them. They constantly nag us to try hard in life, not to be annoying but to push us to become better individuals because they really do care. They want us to stand out and change the minds of those who have looked passed us. We should be proud of our beautiful cultures and keep in mind that we must succeed in school to prove how strong and powerful we are.

With that said, I have some words of wisdom. Whenever you feel like quitting, tell yourself that if you can make it through this then you can make it through anything. Remember that nothing is easy in life. We are no longer the minority, because we are the emerging majority. This is my reason why I have chosen this path, what is yours?

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Photo Source: Unsplash|Michael Hull

How to Make Your Life Legen-wait-for-it-DARY!

By: Katie

Oh, How I Met Your Mother. A show for when you’re bored, when you want to veg out for half an hour, or when you need a little pick-me-up at the end of the day. To celebrate HIMYM and all the lovely times it has given us, here are a few lessons I learned from the show on how to make your life legen-wait for it-DARY!

HIMYM 1

Don’t be the blitz.
Say yes to new opportunities. You never know what class you’ll actually love, what activity will give you some direction, or what experience might be life-changing. If you don’t say yes and try new things, you might miss out on gaining a valuable experience or being part of an awesome story.

HIMYM 2

Think about the front porch.
Front porch-worthy friends are the best friends. If you can see someone being in your life years in the future, work hard to keep that person around. On the flip side, if you don’t want someone in your future, just cut them loose. It’s okay to be picky with your inner circle. Some relationships are toxic, and you don’t need that in your life.

HIMYM 3

Just go to bed!
Nothing good happens after 2am – a classic HIMYM lesson. You think you need to pull an all-nighter to study for that “super-important” test tomorrow? You probably don’t. You think it’s a good idea to sleep a grand total of 20 hours throughout the week? It’s not. Getting straight A’s or playing 10 straight hours of League of Legends (I’m looking at you, roommates) isn’t that important. Just go to bed.

HIMYM 4

Don’t cling to the past.
The years of starting college, graduating, and moving on to whatever is next are exciting, but also a little frightening (take it from the graduating senior). The unknown is scary, but holding back or pausing your plans to live in the situation you find comfortable or familiar isn’t the answer.

HIMYM 5

Wait for it…
Sometimes, you’re just going to have to wait for it. The things you want most often won’t come easily, and if they do, you might need to set higher goals. Keep on working for what you want, and eventually, your waiting will be rewarded.

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