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You’re Welcome

Silvia


by Silvia

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Admissions Diversity First-Gen

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I say that in the most humble way.

Here’s the thing about being first-gen—or maybe just about me—we’ve been conditioned to feel and express nothing but thankfulness when we’re given anything (an opportunity, admissions acceptance, a scholarship, etc.), rather than saying what we truly know.

“That’s right, I EARNED that, and I DESERVE it. You didn’t just HAND it to me…and if we’re being honest, you kinda need me.” Try saying that with your chest next time…maybe after you say thank you—but you get what I mean.

As I write this blog, I find myself deleting and rephrasing because I think to myself, “other college students feel that way too,” and that’s the problem. We minimize and sometimes dismiss our feelings trying to be considerate of others. All the typical college student feelz are valid, I am not trying to take that away. What I am saying is that they are compounded by being first-gen—that’s the power of intersectionality.

I don’t just exist as a student. I exist as the first-born and female daughter of Mexican parents—parents who brought me with them when they immigrated so that I could be “first-generation,” though I don’t think that’s what they intended. Mi mamá me dice, “Yo nunca imaginé que ibas a llegar hasta aquí,” and it’s not because she didn’t believe in me, she believes in me more than I believe in myself, it’s because we come from having nothing and knowing nothing. This matters because while many of my peers were enrolled in extracurriculars, sports, being tutored, etc., in the years preceding college applications, I was cleaning houses with my mom. The moment I learned to write and speak English, which was in 3rd grade, I was making my mom’s business cards on a 3x5 piece of paper and answering the phone when people called to inquire about her services. I cleaned houses with my mom from elementary to high school, up until I left for college.

Silvia in white coat holding hands with mom

My mother’s daughter, a proud moment.

I, like many of my fellow Latinx and first-gen brothers and sisters, had romanticized going to college and couldn’t wait to experience it. The truth is, experiencing college as a first-gen student is rewarding, but it’s even more exhausting. There’s pride and there’s guilt. We’re not just navigating academics and figuring out financial aid, we’re also simultaneously carrying out roles as our family’s’ primary interpreters, therapists, mediators, advocates, coparents (IYKYK) and so much more. There’s pride in knowing my siblings get to wear sweaters with the names of universities they actually know about and have visited. The pride in knowing that when teachers ask if said university is where they plan to attend, they get to say, “No. My sister went there for undergrad. She’s at USC getting her masters now,” is one of the many things being first-gen is all about. That, and the guilt that comes with it as we realize that this is only possible because our parents sacrificed their own dreams for ours.

I believe this is where the internalized superlative feelings of thankfulness stem from. Looking back to where we started, we can’t help but feel thankful for where we are now. But we’re not here because we paid our way in. I will always be thankful for every opportunity I have been given, but I will also acknowledge that it’s not a favor that is being done. Just as I remind myself that I worked for this, and I deserve it, I hope you do too.

A text message from dad

A reminder from my dad: “Congratulations mija for all of the hard work you put in each day. You, by yourself, with all of your effort have won your scholarship. I am very proud. I love you.”

So, to our alma matters (and future ones too, including USC), you’re welcome for choosing you. You’re welcome for our diversity, authenticity, and everything we have brought to the table.

___

I want to leave you with something that I was told and that I hold onto as I reflect on my journey through higher education:
“You had nothing, but at the same time you had it all.” – Dr. Rafeedie

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