There is no single, specific first generation college student. Every person has his or her own stories and different backgrounds. I interviewed two of my friends who shared their own perspectives on being first generation college students.
My friend Andrew Stiehler is a junior and a double major in accounting and finance at the University of Tulsa studying abroad at University College Dublin with me.
What are some challenges first generation college students face?
Being a first generation college student has presented many challenges throughout my college career. During my senior year of high school, I was not really sure where I wanted to attend college and my parents were not able to help with the process, as they were not familiar with it. Being a first-generation college student basically meant I would have to figure it out all on my own.
What made you want to study abroad and pick Ireland or UCD?
During my freshman year, I joined a program called Global Scholars. It is a program that focuses on issues that will be affecting the world in the next 50 years and coming up with solutions to these problems. I wanted a country that spoke English, but still somewhere that would present me with a unique perspective. After looking at different locations, Ireland seemed like the best choice. UCD also offered a top university with programs that fit my double major requirements.
How is being a first generation college student an advantage?
I believe that being a first-generation college student has numerous advantages. Being the first in your family often makes you want to prove yourself and make a better life for yourself. It shows that you are driven and motivated to achieve whatever goals you have in life. I also believe that it teaches you to be dependent on yourself. You are putting yourself in a new situation that offers you a path to future successes.
Do you have any tips or advice for first generation students who are trying to decide to study abroad?
Studying abroad is something that I think everybody should do if given the chance. It gives you a unique perspective into places that you might never visit otherwise. We are more connected than ever before and being able to see the world through different perspectives is an important skill to have. First-generation students might be less inclined to study abroad, but I recommend getting out of your comfort zone as it is something you will not regret doing.
My second friend is Paula Villacreses, a freshman at Johnson & Wales University who hopes to study abroad her junior year.
What are some challenges you are currently facing in you first year of college?
The transition from high school to college has been a bit difficult getting used to a whole new environment. It takes a while to adjust, but once you find your own flow, college feels easygoing. There is also tons of staff support that colleges offer to help with the stress that comes with college especially prone more to first generation students. I would recommend joining clubs and organizations because it is a quick way to make great friends with similar interests!
Where do you want to study abroad and why?
I want to study abroad somewhere in Europe, preferably Spain. My father is from Spain and I have family members there who I never met. I am also fluent in Spanish and have had a huge influence from their culture. I am a die-hard Barcelona F.C. fan and love the food in the country. The warm weather is also a plus!
What are some challenges that might prevent you from studying abroad?
The biggest challenge is obviously what any college student would say: money. Some steps I have put into place to help solve this problem is saving money from working during the school year as well as over the summer. I have also started to look into scholarships for study abroad students and keeping track of deadlines. Another challenge is mapping out my course schedule to make sure I am able to pick my preferred study abroad program without getting behind on my path toward graduation.
Here are some helpful links to find resources for study abroad:
IFSA-Butler First Generation Scholarship
I am a recipient of this scholarship and it is fair to say I would not be writing this post in Dublin right now if it were not for this scholarship.
If you are a current recipient of the Pell Grant, you should definitely apply!
You can find a wide range of scholarship options here. Your program provider should also have helpful resources, as IFSA-Butler did for me.
Best of luck to anyone reading this post and thinking of studying abroad!