Mara Silva

Mara Silva
Year of Graduation

What does being a first-generation college student mean to you?

One word - opportunity. Taking risks, stepping out of my comfort zone, and committing to something my family has not seen before, all while remembering to stay humble.

What obstacles have you faced and overcome in this context?

No one talks about how some first-gen kids are hyper-independent. I was taught to be self-reliant because first-gen students do not always know when to ask for help nor recognize the value of their relationships. As a first-generation kid, I came into my freshman year with low self-esteem. I was under immense stress due to the familial pressures and not wanting to disappoint them. I will beat myself up over bad grades and feel incompetent because of it.

College courses were a difficult subject to approach my parents with, considering the language and academic barriers. The only way I could integrate my parents into my college life was by sharing my major and plans after graduating.

I sometimes think back on all the obstacles I had to overcome and feel satisfied that I’m able to sit in a classroom learning about the subjects I’m passionate about. And when I think of the future, standing at my graduation and having that opportunity to tell my parents that I’ve made it, gives me such a great feeling.

What advice do you have for other first-generation students?

I want to start off by saying, you deserve to be here. Be grateful for the opportunity you’ve earned because you’ve made it this far.

College is pretty expensive, so please take advantage of student resources and services such as the Student Learning Center, Financial Aid Office, Office of Academic Advisement, and your faculty/professors of your department. Reach out to your faculty advisor for your major early on and stay in touch. Begin building relationships with your professors. I strongly recommend attending their office hours when you need help. If your professors know you, they may be better able to advocate for you or even write you a letter of recommendation in the future. They may also have additional academic resources or new perspectives on the material you are struggling with.

This may be a hard pill to swallow, even for me, but failing a test is ok, a bad grade does not define you, it may feel demoralizing but understand that everyone fails sometimes. We just have to persevere.

A piece of advice I’d like to share is to choose your friends wisely. Trust me, it can become difficult to be around people who don't have the same mindset, ambitions and goals as you. Be mindful and surround yourself with positive, goal-oriented people who encourage and motivate you.

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