Life of a first generation student

Kali Cochran

It can be truly hard and devastating being the first one in your entire family to go to college. It can also be confusing not knowing what I want to do, who I want to be and where I want to go when no one ever gave me a light of their experience to guide me through the college world. But all and all, it became worth it.

I got accepted to all six colleges I signed up for: Oakland, Northern Michigan, Wayne State, Western Michigan, Saginaw Valley and Central Michigan. But, instead of going to any of them, I started at Oakland Community College (OCC). I was scared to be on my own and barely had the motivation to even want to go to a university.

I question myself every day on whether I should’ve stayed at a community college because maybe I would’ve felt more accomplished or gotten further. After my first semester of college I transferred to Northern Michigan. Boy, was I terrified. I didn’t even know Michigan had another world eight hours away. Nor did I know it could get so cold and snow so much.

I remember when I first came here and I got lost. It was so cold that day, with my burgundy pea coat and brown leather boots. The snow was taller than me with hills everywhere. I was at the West Science Building and it was dark when I left to go back to my dorm from orientation. I couldn’t find a sidewalk to start at nor an actual hill to go down.

I couldn’t even see my dorm from where I was and that frightened me. I wanted to call the guy I dated so badly, but decided I wanted to figure it out on my own and be a big girl. I ended up catching a ride from a girl I knew from orientation and also lived in Meyland Hall with me.

As a first generation college student, I always expect and believe it is just me and no one out there is like me. I guess that’s where I fall wrong. But truth be told, every first generation student has their own experience, struggles, hardships and story to tell. I believe education is way more important to me because it’s all we really have. I also believe I expect way more of myself. I don’t get the option to give up and fall on my parents’ back, nor do I get the option of falling short.

Sometimes it sucks because I have to work harder than most to prove myself. The simple things that regular students already know, I have to learn and feel fitted into it. I don’t get the same experience someone else has and I don’t have someone who’s an idol for the reason I chose my major. I even question myself on how I’ve gotten so far.

As first generation students, though we have on campus resources, it’s harder when you have to deal with things on your own when it comes to your family. I don’t get to call my mom, dad, brother or someone in my family for help that will know the work I need to know. I don’t get to have someone I’m close to or related to that could teach me everything.

Nor do I get the satisfaction of having someone in my family that has been in my major and completed it. I guess, I don’t have someone to idolize.

Being a first-gen is literally like teaching a baby to walk. I taught myself to walk to class every day, be on time with my alarms and figure out what I liked. I changed my major three different times. I honestly felt like I wasn’t good enough or didn’t know enough for two of the majors, which were nursing and surgical tech.

I know people doubt themselves, but I believe I doubted myself based off what I could and couldn’t control.

I don’t regret going off to college. I don’t regret Northern Michigan. Though it was a big step, different background and smaller world, it made me and I flourished from it. I’m so thankful that I never called it quits and kept going. Northern Michigan has really gotten me far and I thank everyone who motivated and pushed me.

Being a first generation student will never be easy, and I won’t lie and say it’ll get easier or even be a light-weight, but truth be told, it’ll get better and be worth it, because every inch we put in and yard we strive for counts. First generation students, don’t ever give up. You have a story—let that story work you, make you over, give you success and when it’s all said and done, tell it.
First generation students motivate first generation students.