Blazing Your Trail Through The Jungle of College

In the United States, where education is highly prioritized, most children will finish high school and go on to receive a college degree. However, in recent years, there has been an increasing number of those who do not have this opportunity. Why? It is partly due to the fact that each year, there are more immigrants in the United States. There are tens of millions of immigrants in the United States. Among these, how many of these will receive a college degree…?

Education is key; it is what allows you to move up in this country. With a college degree, you can go to graduate school, increase your probability of receiving a job, and more. Coming from a family who migrated to the United States, this is the mentality that was passed on to me. However, my experience was unlike most students’ who were born and grew up in the United States, where college is just part of growing up and becoming an adult.

What is it like for students who are the first ones in their family to attend college?

You aren’t like the majority of the students at your college. You are coming from a different socioeconomic background. You are perhaps a different race. You are not used to going away from home because growing up, your parents couldn’t afford to send you away to sleep-away camp. Some of your parents never even heard of sleep-away camps. You are intimidated by all the new friendships forming around you while you’re thinking of what to say to join the conversation. You are paranoid that someone will judge you because of your clothes because they aren’t Ralph Lauren or Abercrombie & Fitch.

However, back home, you are the cherry on top. You are the son/daughter who received good grades in high school. You are the one who received a scholarship to a school that is far away, but that is meant to prepare you for a good career. You are the pride and joy of your family. You are hilarious and you are always making your siblings and cousins laugh with your jokes. You wear PJs at home because everyone does and that’s the way it’s always been.

For some, it comes naturally. You are just yourself and you start to blend in and make friends at college. Friends who share the same values and accept you for who you are.

But what if you are yourself and you are not accepted?

Despite putting yourself out there and attempting to make new friends, you just don’t fit. Your beliefs don’t allow you to hook up with people at parties. You don’t have the money to buy alcohol for you and your friends. You don’t have money for a fake ID. You spend more time in your room FaceTiming your siblings or parents because in your culture it’s important to talk to them every day.

The expression “It’s a jungle out there!” could not be more applicable in this case. College is a jungle. One that you explore, whether you are wearing the right boots, sneakers or flip flops. You make do with what you have, whether it’s a bottle of water in case you’re thirsty or a hat to block the sun from getting on your face. You have to cross rivers, climb over rocks, and make your own path when necessary.

This is what it comes down to: making your own path.

Whether you are a first generation college student or not, it’s important to make your own path. You shouldn’t have to follow the norms. You don’t have to be interested in what everyone else is interested in. Follow what you are interested in, even if there isn’t a club or association for it yet. You have to take advantage of all the possibilities and opportunities that college offers you. Make your own path and stay true to yourself, no matter how hard that might seem when trying to fit in.

If you have the privilege of going to college, what will you make out of your experience?