As first-generation Latino students step foot on a college campus for the first time, they will soon feel the pressure to represent their families and make everything their parents’ have sacrificed worth it.
For me personally, my mom was the one who always said I would do nursing, and when it was time to start school, I chose nursing because my parents never talked about anything else. I felt as if I was not allowed to pick another major.
When thinking about college, I imagined getting good grades, signing up for clubs, being involved on campus and never wanting to come home. Little did I know it would be the complete opposite.
I struggled with classes and failed tests. I was intimidated to meet new people. I wasn’t involved in anything, and I spent most of my time in my room. Every Friday, I would call my mom asking her to pick me up to spend the weekend at home, and if she would say no, I knew crying would do the trick.
To this day, I still feel so guilty that my parents paid so much out of pocket for my first year of college at Anderson University because I did not do well and had a bad experience. During my second semester, my dad told me that if I wanted to keep going to school, I would have to transfer to Goshen College. In reality, I did not even want to go back to school, which made me think, “How many students want to give up?”
The process does not start the first year of college, but instead during senior year of high school because it is filled with college applications, taking the SAT/ACT, taking college visits and filling out the FAFSA. Filling out college applications and the FAFSA was a challenge because I had never done it before. I couldn’t visit as many colleges as I wanted to because my dad could not afford to miss work.
Finding a way to pay for college tuition can be stressful and a big strain on some families. The only reason why I had to transfer to Goshen College was because it was more affordable. I thought since I had already completed a year at Anderson University, my first year here was going to be easy.
Right away, I realized that I was just starting over again on a new campus, with new faculty and students. Not having support and a lack of community within the nursing department made things harder. I felt as if I was on my own, and I had trouble believing in myself that I could actually be a nurse.
My parents had no idea how bad I was struggling and wanted to give up. All they ever told me was, “You are put in classes with people your age, not geniuses; if they can do it, so can you.” I felt as if the only solution I had was to change my major, instead of continuing to fail nursing requirement courses I had been struggling with.
I met Duane Stoltzfus, professor of communications, after May Term here at Goshen College. He welcomed me to the communications department with open arms and scheduled my classes for my first year as a public relations major. I nervously looked at the schedule which tallied up to 15 credit hours because I had never taken more than 13. Professor Stoltzfus looked at me and said, “You can do it.” My choice was risky, but it was by far the best decision I’ve made regarding my college career.
I could not consult with my parents while making this decision, but rather just told them I had switched my major. Although my mom was disappointed that I was letting go of her dream of me being a nurse, I know deep down she trusted my decision.
I am now more comfortable on campus and know how to wisely use the resources I have. Sometimes it is hard having no support at home, because my parents don’t understand how hard it really is. I am sure that there are other first-generation students that feel discouraged.
I believe it is about finding the right major, not being afraid of asking questions, looking for answers and taking advantage of the resources that are on campus which tuition covers for. Most importantly, it is a good idea for first-generation students to stick together, encourage one another and share their stories. There are always others in similar shoes looking for guidance.