Gabriela Miranda | First Person

Photo Illustration by Zakk Greene

Congratulations, you made it. Life as a college student is your new reality. Regardless of what happens in the next four to five years, you are a first-generation student, the first in your family to attend college. Achieving that milestone alone is a huge feat.

A first-generation student is defined as one whose parents or legal guardians have not completed their bachelor’s degree. 

As a first-gen Latina student, I understand the sacrifices that went into every college application and FAFSA form. For some, like me, you were alone in the process and struggled to make sense of forms, tuition and how feasible college could be. Growing up, I went to my family for advice on everything — but they couldn’t help me prepare for college life.

There is a certain weight that is carried when you are the first to shoot for higher education. There are no blueprints or guides. My parents couldn’t warn me about the difficulties of finding a community on a campus of over 30,000 students or how they handled balancing a college class schedule.

But they did tell me they’ve dreamed about their children receiving a university degree for years now.

And that’s the beauty: We are starting new legacies for our families.

I understand how difficult it was applying to UGA. High school teachers told me I would never make it, and when I looked at the percentage of Latinx students in the university, I became discouraged. I wondered if it was financially feasible or if I could do it all on my own.

Sacrifices were made. I missed my family, and many times I felt like I was the only one on campus who didn’t know what I was doing. These lonely times may come to you and again. There is no blueprint, but from one first-gen student to another, here is my advice:

Remember: You are already doing enough

As a first-generation student, sometimes it’s easy to compare yourself to the situations of others, what they’re doing or what they have — don’t. You just being here is enough. Your effort, sacrifice and time away from family and away from everything you’re comfortable with is sufficient. Make reasonable goals for yourself, but know that everything you’re doing is okay.

Seek out mentors

Some of my professors in Franklin College and in Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication helped me find ways to balance my commitments to my family and financial need, while also prioritizing my education.

LinkedIn and social media are also a great way to connect with UGA alumni and professionals in your future industry who are also from similar backgrounds. Mentors, whether found through UGA’s mentor program or tracked down individually, helped me feel like I wasn’t alone in my struggle or confusion, and I hope they can do the same for you.

Remember why you’re here

This is the most important tip. My first semester at UGA, I felt exhausted and lost. I felt the pressure to succeed because I would set the example for the rest of my family. When you start to miss your family and community or when you feel like no one understands your struggles, remember why you applied. I think of my family in Puerto Rico. I think of the education they weren’t granted and the privilege I have. Remember your reason, and hold onto that throughout your years at UGA.

Be your own biggest supporter

Find mentors and a community, and above all — “Sigue palante”— keep moving forward. At the end, you’ll get to look up at your family in Sanford Stadium and know you are the first to earn that diploma, and despite every obstacle, you will have done it on your own.

Gabriela Miranda is a senior majoring in journalism.

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