What it’s Like Being First Generation in Academia

Being the first person in your family to attend a post-secondary institution can be one of the most exciting things you do in your life. But it can also feel extremely stressful at times.

Seeing others with support systems that you don’t have because their parents, siblings and other relatives have experience in university, and none of yours do. It can being about a feeling of alienation, like you don’t fit in with your peers. Everyone else has people they can go to for advice, and you’re left to fend for yourself.

This was a hard realization for me as a first generation academic student because I had always felt like school was the place I thrived in completely. I resonated with the way schools ran because I was able to relate to my peers.

Until I hit university. I knew nothing about what I was getting myself into, and I had no one to voice my concerns to or get any reassurance from. It was like I was blindly stepping into a labyrinth, without any idea how to find the exit.


Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

The more I looked around me, the less I felt like I belonged anywhere near a university campus. Everyone else seemed to have an idea of what they were “supposed” to be doing, even if it was a faint one. But I had nothing. Nobody to tell me about their time in university or to tell me how to make the most of my time.

students in a university classroomI felt like I was falling behind because everyone else was having a good time while managing their classes, but I had no idea how to even manage one full course load, let alone keep up with my social life.

But I managed to keep going. I made it through my first semester and almost my first entire year at university. Something I didn’t think I would be able to do.

At one point within my first semester, I felt like I was taking up a space I didn’t deserve on campus because I came from a family that was seemingly “uneducated.” But I realized that I didn’t need to have anyone ‘guiding’ my path through this experience. After all, it belongs to me. I have learned that I am not the only one struggling with this sense of alienation, and there are countless other students that are, or were, in the same boat as I am.

If you find yourself feeling this way, just know you are not alone; so many others feel the same as you. The best thing to do when you feel this way is to talk to a classmate or a friend about how you feel.

There are people around you who can support you if you need it, and there are also so many support systems on campus at the Health and Wellness Building if you ever need them.

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