“Lo lograste!” (You made it). Hearing those words from my parents after graduating high school was one of the most touching moments in my life. From getting good grades to volunteering in my community, I tried to be the best student I could be. Coming from an immigrant Latinx household, I was always expected to achieve what my parents could not. Since my parents were not able to attend higher education, my end goal was to attend college after high school. There was pressure to reach this goal as I didn’t want to fail but also determination as I wanted to make my parents proud.
Once I got to UC Santa Barbara, my world did a complete 180. I was no longer the best of the best or even a part of the majority. While everyone seemed to have their life together, I, on the other hand, felt like I was still figuring mine out. I think being first-gen and Latinx has impacted my experience as I did not have the upper-hand in someone giving me advice. From college applications to selecting my classes for the quarter, I basically had to figure it out all on my own. That is why I want to share what I‘ve learned about myself in hopes to help others with similar backgrounds or experiences in their journeys as well.
No. 1. It’s okay to feel homesick.
The first time I left for college I was so excited to finally start a new chapter in my life. I mean, for most of my life I lived under my strict Latinx parents' rules which entailed a 10pm curfew and always asking for permission. So, when I was given the chance to leave for college, I did not hesitate. However, once I got to the dorms and had to do everything for myself, I definitely felt the short end of the stick. Not only did I no longer have my sister to accompany me everywhere or my mom’s home cooked meals, but I also felt alone and missed my family everyday. I tried to Facetime and text my sisters whenever I had the chance, but I realized it was not the same.
When it comes to overcoming homesickness and balancing family with school, my advice is to set out one day a week where you Facetime your family so that you can stay in the loop. Shoot a text at the beginning of the day to your loved ones at home, but
also make sure to set some time for yourself. Balancing your life back home and your life in college is important. Putting too much focus on your family might lead to missing new opportunities in college. When I put more time for my social life, I was able to create a close group of friends who I do movie nights and attend club events with.
No 2. Surround yourself with like minded people.
I think one of the best decisions I made as a Latinx student was finding my community within UCSB. About Advice from a First-Gen Latinx Student identify as Latinx, leading me to feel like an outsider once I arrived at school. Yet, within the first week before the start of classes, I came across an organization called Hermanas Unidas that helped me connect with other Hispanic and Latinx students. Through HaU, I was able to meet people similar to myself in terms of experiences, language, culture and identity. I no longer felt like the odd one out when joining this organization, and I was introduced to other Latinx spaces such as El Centro and the Chicanx/Latinx Cultural Resource Center (CLCRC). By immersing myself in my own culture at UCSB, I was able to keep using Spanish in my everyday life, celebrate traditions from my culture, and build a community where I felt I belonged.
No. 3. No question is a dumb question.
Coming into a new space where I felt like a minority, I did not believe I was allowed to take up space. Whether it be in a classroom or in a social setting, I was afraid to ask about things I did not know. I did not want to be perceived as the “dumb Hispanic girl” that didn’t know anything, so during my first year at UCSB I often kept to myself. When I returned to campus after the pandemic, I realized that asking questions in class or about FAFSA was not dumb at all, and instead exteremely beneficial. As a first-gen student, I was not given a “Guide to College'' like many others whose parents did attend. Instead, I learned to give myself credit when I asked questions and not to feel afraid when I did. Having courage to advocate for myself was one of the most difficult challenges I was able to overcome.Therefore, if you are a first-gen student, you should not only be kind to yourself, but also be unafraid to advocate for your needs.
The college experience is not easy. When I first arrived, I was pushed outside my echo chamber of living in a predominantly Latinx community, and placed in a new world in which I had to figure everything out for myself. However, the difficulties I faced allowed me to grow as a person. I now have a community in Santa Barbara I can rely on and am able to take care of myself without immediately turning to my family for help. That is why I wanted to offer some advice for those who are going through a similar experience. Especially to those who are Latinx first-gen students because “Lo podemos lograr” (We can do it!)