I knew I didn’t fit in with the stereotypical U-M student. It was definitely a culture shock for me. There wasn’t a name for it then and I hadn’t heard of “first-gen.”
Share Your Story
I grew up in Dearborn and Canton, Michigan. We were what folks call the “working class.” My dad worked for Ford Motor company in the skilled trades and my mother stayed at home or worked various part time jobs such as driving a school bus. Her father (my grandfather) immigrated to the United States from Jordan. My mother married my dad at age 17 after his return from Vietnam and she put aside her dream to attend college to be a teacher. My parents worked very hard to give my sister and I a better life than they had and opportunities that they didn’t. We were encouraged to excel academically and told we would have the chance to attend college if we did well in school. Yet, as a girl growing up in the 1980s I felt discouraged and despite my stellar grades, I had imposter syndrome. I didn’t see myself fitting in at the University of Michigan so I applied everywhere in the state. Despite feeling intimidated, afraid, and overwhelmed by the large U-M campus, I decided to attend the University of Michigan and to my surprise, after awhile it became “home.” I found my people and my community living in the co-ops and in the local music scene during the mid to late 1990s. I knew I didn’t fit in with the stereotypical U-M student. It was definitely a culture shock for me. There wasn’t a name for it then and I hadn’t heard of “first-gen.” I had many work-study jobs and lived year round on campus all throughout college; and from that work I learned independence and the ins and outs of college life. Those experiences taught me that I would like to work at U-M permanently after graduation. I’ve been an employee now in Student Life for over 15 years!
Your advice for other First-Gen students
It takes courage to face your fears that you don’t fit in or aren’t good enough. Don’t listen to fear. Fear is a liar. Know that when you come here, you belong. You are coming home. I’ve learned that it’s OK to try something and fail; that you can always change your story and your mind. The greatest leaders I’ve met here at the University of Michigan are those who also happened to be first gen college students. They have a special appreciation for different student and staff identities and backgrounds.