Tips for First-Generation College Students: Finding “Home” Away From Home & Talking To Your Family About Wildcat Life

28 Oct

Despite the fact that I was born and raised in Tucson, and the University of Arizona was practically in my “backyard,” as a first generation student, I wasn’t really sure how college worked. Few of my family members had graduated from high school, and none of my family members had attended four-year institutions.

Technically, I never did get “homesick” since I never left my mother and siblings in Tucson. However, because the university-system was new for all of us, it was a scary process. My family and I didn’t really know how challenging the classes were, and how the university system worked. I think I was more nervous and had more questions than my mother. There were obstacles along the way that seemed extremely difficult at the time. One of those obstacles was making the important decision of moving out from my home. Even though this was a tough decision, it ended up being the right one.

The trick for me was to find that balance I needed to have a good college experience, but to also have a good relationship with my family. I came to the conclusion that I needed to find my “home away from home.”

Since my moving out, I felt a bit disconnected with my family, and didn’t see them as much. I missed home, even though I was only twenty minutes away. Also, initially, my family did not fully understand how much dedication it took to do well in college, and they did not agree on my choice of study. FYI: I’m studying Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Random, huh? I know. And my family didn’t understand why.

This is why it was crucial to find my home away from home in the place where I spent most of my time.

My freshmen year I was lucky enough to find a job as a front desk assistant at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. From then on I started meeting new people with the same kinds of interests that I thought were fascinating. Those conversations soon developed into amazing friendships. Those friendships soon developed into something greater than friendship – they became family. These people seemed to understand how hard school was, and gave me all the resources I needed to survive my freshmen year. I know that might sound a little extreme, but at the time it seemed like I couldn’t see the light at the end of tunnel. These individuals pushed me through the dark tunnel.

Within The School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies I found my niche. I was surrounded by those who were going through the same difficult and challenging time as I was. Many of us were full-time students, living away from home, and working part time. We all came from different backgrounds, but somehow we all bonded like family, supporting one another.

Here are a couple of pictures of the wonderful people I met, who soon became my second family.

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It’s important to have a support system throughout your college years.  College can be overwhelming and sometimes you just need to vent out the frustrations of a specific class or situation.

At home, I did feel supported, but just in a different way.  I couldn’t really talk to my mom about problems at school, or talk about school overall. My mother didn’t really understand, and didn’t know how to give me advice since college was a new experience for her as well. Even though we had our differences, and although they had a hard time adjusting to my life here at the University since I was no longer living at home, I still stayed extremely close to my family.

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However, they soon adjusted to the big change and have been very supportive ever since. My family saw how happy I was attending the UofA, and really realized that I had a passion for Middle Eastern Studies.

Here are the top three tips I have for first-generation students when talking with their family about their life at The University of Arizona:

Struggle 1: What if my family doesn’t agree with my major choice?

Don’t get frustrated with your family! Sometimes all you need to do it give it time.

Struggle 2:  What if my family doesn’t understand how time-consuming and grueling the workload is at the university?

Calmingly talk to your parents, and take them through a rundown of your schedule. This will show your parents how time-consuming your schedule is, and how that reflects your workload.

Struggle 3: What if you can’t find that home away from home?

Don’t worry too much. Sometimes it takes time to make those connections. As long as you are out there trying your best that’s all that matters.

Like I said earlier, my family’s support is a bit different from the support that I found at school. We love each other, and that’s all that matters right?

My point with this blog is to have faith. Even if you’re an international student, an out-of-state student, or an in-state student, you can and will always have someone to support you 100 percent. Get out there, get involved, and get to know your professors, classmates, co-workers, and everyone you can.

If you’re sitting at home or in the dorms reading this, or wherever you are, and can’t think of anyone who supports you, just know that the entire staff at Student Affairs Outreach is always here for you. If you want to chat about life as a Wildcat, or anything, we are located in the Nugent building, lower level.

Homesickness, no matter your definition, can be a little overwhelming, but it is possible to find that home away from home. I did … have you?

–Valeria Martinez

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