Anxiety, anticipation, acclimation … going to college for the first time is something that every Westmont student can say they’ve experienced. However, for some students, this encounter holds a very different meaning: they’re the first in their family to attend college.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m carrying the weight of my whole family,” stated an anonymous, first-generation first-year. The added stress of familial expectations is not all bad, though; it can be a reason to work even harder. “It’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time, I want to make them proud, so I work really hard for them,” the student continued.
For some first-generation students, attending college was their choice entirely. Adrian Barrena, another first-year first-generation student, spoke on this: “It was something I wanted to do. I want to prove myself to the world, help others with jobs, further my skills as a person.” He knew he would have to go to college, so that he can ultimately achieve his dream of being a doctor. “I want to leave my mark on the world, a good mark, so other people can be helped.”
Alongside the motivation that some first-generation students experience, there are unique challenges as well. Adrian discussed this, stating, “The hardest thing for me was stepping into a brand new environment, without a support system at home since I’m the first in my family to go to college for an entire four years.”
“‘Sometimes I feel like I’m carrying the weight of my whole family, … It’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time, I want to make them proud, so I work really hard for them.’”
-anonymous first-generation student
Not having family that has experienced going to college poses another challenge: learning how to navigate college alone. Adrian agreed: “It’s a lot; having to do my own thing and motivate myself. It’s a whole new thing for me.”
On Nov. 8, the Center for Student Success is hosting a First-Generation College Student Celebration from 11:30-1:30 p.m. in the Founders Room, with lunch provided for attendees. This event recognizes and celebrates Westmont students who are first-generation college students.
Aside from simply celebrating the accomplishments of first-generation students, some participants hope to learn more about what it means to be a first-generation student. Adrian notes that he particularly hopes to learn more about the statistics surrounding first-generation students: “I want to hear the racial demographic of first-generation college students both at Westmont and at other colleges. I also just want reassurance that college is the right thing.”
The event presents an opportunity for first-generation students to connect and share their experiences with one another. From navigating college alone to adjusting to an entirely new experience, first-generation students go through college in a very unique way. Adrian agrees, leaving first-generation students with a word of encouragement: “Go to class, do your homework, but have fun too!”