To my fellow first-generation friends,
Congratulations on your acceptance to the University of Arizona! Stepping onto campus on your first day of class is an accomplishment in itself. In addition to being first-generation, you made it here in light of a global pandemic, so you should be extremely proud of yourself.
I want to start off this letter with a firm reminder: You belong here. As a first-generation college student, your path to college may have been harder than that of your peers, and that is okay.
Being first-generation is a rewarding but, at times, difficult journey. Many of you may not have the guidance that you’d hope to have when it comes to navigating the life of a college student. For me, some experiences felt like I was walking through my college experiences with my eyes closed because I was so unaware of how to handle situations such as financial aid appeals, campus health or issues with a professor.
Not knowing how to navigate academia as a first-generation student is completely okay and normal. A major piece of advice that I would like to give is to make sure to find your community on campus. Your community can range from your cultural center to a sports team to a club. Your community might even become your main support system while attending the university. Your community will advocate for you, encourage you and love you in a way that is so important for incoming college students.
At the university, I tended to fall in the background of most settings. I would purposely isolate myself for many reasons. I would experience imposter syndrome, I would feel alone because none of my high school friends went to the university with me, I was low income and did not have money to spare on activities. But once I found my community at the university, I began to feel more comfortable and was able to relax while on campus.
Another piece of advice that I would like to offer is to take things in baby steps at the university. As first-generation, I feel that there tends to be this overwhelming sense of having to be perfect and that failing is not an option. It is okay to make mistakes in academia. When I was a freshman, I failed my first math test. I got a 43%, and I was devastated. Even a few times after that failed math test, I had received poor grades on other class assignments. Although I did not get the "A" that I wanted, I survived that class, and I passed. No matter what happens in academia, you will be okay, and you will make it through.
These next four years will be so incredibly formative for you all. Remember to take it one day at a time. It will be fun, it will be difficult, but you will succeed.
Cheers to your first day of college!
Geraldine Mariana Espinosa
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Geraldine (she/they) is a junior and is majoring in journalism. She likes to bake and read in her free time.