Our Stories

University of Minnesota students, staff, faculty, and alumni who are first-generation students and graduates proudly share their stories and experiences.

Roughly 1 in 4 students at the University are the first in their family to attend college. What has your experience been like as a first-gen at the U of M? If you are an undergrad student, graduate student, faculty, staff, or alumnus/alumna from the U of M, you are welcome to share your story.*  

Share Your Story

*We are using a new website and form this year. If you have submitted your story in a previous year, please consider resubmitting your story this year. 

  • _umn2913-(1.jpg

    Kayla Cory

    Staff & U of M Alumni

    My U of M Community:

    TRIO McNair Scholars & Pre-Health Student Resource Center

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Identifying as a first-gen student was something I grew into as an undergrad student. When I first learned that I was first-gen, I was resentful and felt like I was a "risk" or "burden" to the university. However, through programs like TRIO Student Support Services, TRIO McNair S…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Find a community of students with similar identities to you but also don't limit yourself to only that community. Explore what you're interested in but have a "hub" or "home base" community to come back to so you can talk with peers about experiences you have. Know you are never alone!

    If you're a TRIO or PES student, maximize using those resources! The staff in these programs are there to help you and often have similar lived experiences to you. They can connect you to resources that you might not have even heard of!

  • img_8850-2.jpg

    Anh Doan

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    President's Emerging Scholars, TRIO, Youth Studies, Asian American Studies, Public Health

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Coming to America with a single mom and brother was never a dream that my ancestors envisioned for me. As a #firstgen scholar, I never expected myself to be in institutions like the University of Minnesota, especially since there wasn’t many that looked like me. However, looking back now, I can prou…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    My advice for first generations is to always go where your feet wanders like my ancestors who traveled all over Vietnam, I did the same thing when I was the U. With that, I am able to meet new folks with different backgrounds from mines but shared the love for lingering to explore.

  • img_8429.jpg

    Nick Rajtar

    Graduate Student

    My U of M Community:

    CFANS, Department of Plant Pathology, Plant Sciences

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    My parents had only attended college for a year or so and choose to work instead of completing their degree. During my time as an undergraduate I worked 20 hours a week on top of going to school full-time to support myself. I encountered some hardships along the way. It took me six years, two major…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Find a major/field to work in that you love and don't be afraid to change majors/schools. Have a hobby that is unrelated to your studies. There will be tough times but the end result is worth it. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

  • real.jpg

    Brandon Chen

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    CEHD, TRIO Student Support Services, President's Emerging Scholars

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Coming into college I had no idea what First-Gen meant. As my sophomore year goes on I understand the struggles of a First-Gen because of the differences I have with other classmates. I came in with imposter syndrome thinking I did not belong there but I was wrong. The U is a place where all are wel…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Please do not be afraid to reach out whenever you have questions or need help with something! There are resources out there for you but you have to make that first step in reaching out! Your college experience is what you want it to be if you put the effort into it.

  • img-7618.jpg

    Brandon Chen

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    CEHD, TRIO Student Support Services, President's Emerging Scholars

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Coming into college I had no idea what First-Gen meant. As my sophomore year goes on I understand the struggles of a First-Gen because of the differences I have with other classmates. I came in with imposter syndrome thinking I did not belong there but I was wrong. The U is a place where all are wel…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Please do not be afraid to reach out whenever you have questions or need help with something! There are resources out there for you but you have to make that first step in reaching out! Your college experience is what you want it to be if you put the effort into it.

  • avl.jpg

    Ah Vang-Lo

    Staff Member

    My U of M Community:

    TRIO SSS, CEHD

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I was never really proud of my Hmong identity until I came to college and met some Hmong brothers and sisters. The community I found made me feel so honored and I was able to really listened to my parent's traumatic history. That made my drive towards college an even stronger motivation and mad…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Find your community on campus. Be it from a cultural identity, major/academic interest, or hobby. Lean into the uncomfortable space of meeting new people as these can potentially be your long lasting friends. You can do this! You belong here!

  • canvas.jpg

    Enet Mukurazita

    Graduate Student

    My U of M Community:

    PhD Candidate -CIDE|OLPD College of Education and Human Development

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    My dad and mum only had a few years of education but they worked had to send us to the best schools they could afford and ensure we have the educational experience they never had. During my educational journey I encountered cultural, financial struggles but I never gave up because my mother would al…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    You can do it. Once a college admits you they are confident you can obtain the degree. The journey will not be easy because you are breaking new ground in your family. Clearing a pathway is not easy you have to remove a lot of things and it will be tough but NEVER GIVE UP there is a whole clan looking up to you who want to walk on that pathway you are clearing.#yesyoucanfirstgen#

  • cehd-rodriguez.2020.jpg

    Michael Rodriguez

    Administrator

    My U of M Community:

    CEHD

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Although I am a fifth-generation Minnesotan, I am a first-gen college grad. Didn't think grad school was an option - took a gap year, and with support of University staff, returned to complete grad school. After 22 years on the CEHD faculty, I am now the Dean! I never imagined this was a possib…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Reach out and accept the support available to you. None of us did this on our own. Together, we create new opportunities and accomplish so much more - more than you might think is possible.

  • eva-widder-sept-2020-1.jpg

    Eva Widder

    U of M Alumni

    My U of M Community:

    Carlson School, CLA

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I give a lot of credit to my parents for always encouraging and valuing education, and setting the tone of "when" I go to college not "if" I go to college. Some of my best friends I met as a freshman in Middlebrook Hall more than 20 years ago. I often joke that I would be a full-…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Get involved on campus: join student groups and go to events. Go to office hours! Study hard but make time to have fun. And ask about resources to help you succeed as a student - everything from the Center for Writing to the Nutritious U Food Pantry.

  • img_3837.jpg

    Lisa Harnack

    Faculty Member

    My U of M Community:

    School of Public Health

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    It was baby steps for me- starting at a wonderful local community college for my AA, then going to a smaller state school to earn a BS, and eventually having the confidence to go to a large University far from home for my masters and doctoral degrees. I built confidence with every step, and I am tha…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Ask questions and seek advice from faculty and staff. That is what we are here for- it's our job:) Also realize that you don't know what you don't know, and by asking questions and seeking advice some knowledge gaps are apt to be uncovered and hopefully addressed sooner than later.

  • 147468845_10224583239397405_6739964696766089519_n.jpg

    Korrina Griffith

    Advisor

    My U of M Community:

    Department of Psychology Staff; Psychology and GWSS alum; Department of Educational Psychology - Counselor Education Graduate Program student

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    When I was younger, my grandpa always wanted me to go to college and wanted me to go to the University of Minnesota since he was never able to. He passed away when I was only 11 but I held on to our shared dream: I would do whatever I could to be a Gopher. I worked hard during high school to achieve…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Talk with your advisors and use your resources. It's always better to ask questions than to sit in confusion. Many people on campus are happy to help and to clarify. Especially as someone who works in higher education, I know I will get in the habit of using jargon but I am always happy to be interrupted by a student who does not understand or needs a definition. Additionally, your tuition pays for so many resources on campus so be sure to use them to the fullest!

  • img_5947.jpg

    Kaitlyn Wall

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    Carlson School of Management, Supply Chain and Operations Management

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I always wanted to go to college but didn't understand the challenges I would face as a first-generation college student. I was navigating college life on my own until I learned how to ask for help and utilize the resources that the University has in place. There are days that I still doubt my…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Own your identity as a first-gen student, ask for help, advocate for yourself, and know that you are not alone. Recognize your barriers to success and be proud of yourself for overcoming them!

  • img-2487.jpg

    Minerva S. Munoz

    Staff Member

    My U of M Community:

    TRIO Student Support Services, CEHD, CLA Grad (2004), Humphrey Grad (2009)

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from CLA (2004) and a Master of Public Policy degree from the Humphrey School (2009). There are blood, sweat and tears tied up in these degrees. There is my own form of liberation in these degrees.

    I left my family in 1999 to pursue coll…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Don't wait to be invited to the table, push your way in and claim your space. Speak your truth -- even if imperfectly. Don't code switch to make people feel comfortable. Keep your own "whys" at the center of this journey and maintain your own standards of excellence. Have pride in your past and the mountains your ancestors have climbed for you to be here. Lastly, take the risk on yourself and your growth.

  • ericf-main2.jpg

    Eric Zhong Fritsche

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    CSE

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    My mother left after graduating high school in Guangzhou, China to go to Peru, LA, and San Francisco before meeting my dad. He grew up on a rural MN farm before going to tech school to become a mechanic and work at an auto parts store. From their combined efforts and support in a school where I was…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Be it through on campus resources, mentors, student groups/clubs, or your friends, a support group will help get you thrive!

  • 128e4bfb-e02d-49ba-8d59-a512b32cdefc.jpeg

    Khoa Nguyen

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    CLA, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, APARC/ASPIRE, College Possible, Wallin Scholars

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    My mom was a stay-at-home mom for me and my brother up until when I went to high school, in which she went to community college to become a medical laboratory technician. My dad has been an engineering technician my whole life because his education in Vietnam was not accepted as well here. I have be…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Keep watch of finances and apply to as many scholarships as you can, whether it’s through your college (CLA, etc.) or scholarships offered for your identity group (AANIPISI scholarship, etc.). Imposter syndrome is real but join groups and support networks to surround yourself with people with similar experiences so you can support each other and still have fun! Give yourself some self-care and make sure you’re doing things for the right reason.

  • pic.jpg

    Syrah Sabio

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    CLA, Sociology Major, Asian American Studies Minor, Public Health Minor, PES, PSA

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    My dad never attended college and my mom started but never finished therefore I am the first in my immediate family to make it this far in college with a plan to graduate and potentially further my education afterwards. I came to the U.S. when I was only five years old, my parents wanted to give me…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    A small piece of advice that I can give to other first generation students is that you belong here at the U, don’t let the small little things get you down and interfere with the path you're creating for yourself. Instead use it as a way to push yourself and strive for the best. I also think that it's okay to be not be okay sometimes, somedays you will be stressed and overwhelmed but it'll eventually get better. It's important to do things that you like to do to take care of yourself, making sure to keep your mental health as a top priority.

  • firstgenphoto.jpg

    Lecia Mata

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    CFANS, Animal Science (Pre-vet emphasis) and CLA, Ojibwe Language

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I've always had a love for animals, when I was in kindergarten and I was asked 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' I always answered veterinarian. My mom was begin college as a nursing student while raising three of her younger siblings and myself and my dad was an auto mechani…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Never look as failure as a finality. Failure is an obstacle intended to challenge us beyond our current prospectives during our journey. When those feelings of burnout, overwhelmed or imposter syndrome arise, sit down and think of all those things you have accomplished so far. As a first-generation student you're defying every statistic society labels us with, you're providing your peers with a unique prospective and overall you bring so much to a community with simply your presence. You're resilient, you're resourceful and you're revitalizing a society built on systematic racism and oppression.

  • pic---quynh-nhu-dao.jpeg

    Quynh Nhu Dao

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    CLA, Institute of Child Development, PES, McNair Scholars

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I first came to the United States when I was 7 years old. My naive, younger self did not understand the complexities of being a person of color coming from a different country. My early childhood education consisted of me trying to fit in with my peers while trying to learn a second language. I felt…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Take a day and explore all the campus resources available to students. Invite a friend or two and have fun while exploring. You never know what and who you can find!

  • img_0089-2.jpg

    Molly Baltins

    Staff Member

    My U of M Community:

    CCAPS

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Becoming a first generation college student is an incredible honor, and dream, for me. I always loved school and my grandpa always said I was going to graduate and become the family's first college graduate. This was special to me as he didn't finish high school. My college studies were lo…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    My advice for first-generation students is to reach out and don't be afraid to ask for help! I personally worked with multiple advisers, counselors, as well as numerous staff members during my time on campus. Everyone wants you to succeed and reach your goals! If you are also not sure of a major, don't be afraid to explore! The U has a great resource called the Center for Academic Planning and Exploration (CAPE) that is amazing at helping you decide on the perfect major. This is where I found the Inter-College Program! Additionally, if there are any bumps in the road, keep going! I had a lot more bumps in my road then what I ever thought I would, but it was my determination that makes me even more proud to call myself a Gopher Alumni!

  • uofmpic.jpg

    Michael Schroeder

    U of M Alumni

    My U of M Community:

    Carlson School of Management

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I was the first-- and only, member of my family to get a college degree - my brothers, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did not graduate from college, though my father did take a few classes at the U after serving in the Marines. I transferred to Minnesota after freshman year not sure w…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Opinion is split about the value of a college education, and there are high-paying jobs that do not require one but speaking from my personal experience, I can honestly say I benefited in multiple ways from my collegiate experience. Education, including "learning how to learn" is of course the most valuable benefit. But the most enduring benefits are self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment that very few other life experiences can provide. Stay the course!

  • will.jpg

    Will O'Berry

    Staff Member

    My U of M Community:

    President's Emerging Scholars

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Navigating college as a first-generation college student was simultaneously daunting, exciting, and rewarding. I often felt a lot of stress about whether I would ultimately make it through to graduation, but I did thanks, in part, to staff and mentors who genuinely cared about me and to the family t…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Put in the work to develop relationships with staff and instructors at the University, and get out there, and make friends! These relationships will help sustain you as you move through college, as well as the rest of your life.

  • face.png

    Steve

    Staff Member

    My U of M Community:

    PES

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I am proud to say that I am a first generation college student. I have completed my degrees and in doing so I've made the path smoother for my children and others like me. My first generation college students inspire me every day and I hope I do the same for them!

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Ask questions. Nobody has it all figured out, but together we do. The more questions you ask, the better off you will be.

  • screen-shot-2021-11-02-at-4.25.56-pm.png

    Hannah Methner

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    College of Liberal Arts, BA in Biology, Society, and Environment, Minor in Public Health

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Growing up, my parents had instilled the value of quality education. They are my biggest supporters and have fiercely believed in my ability to achieve my dreams. Because of them, I have always considered myself to be a lifelong learner. Being the first in my family to pursue a bachelor's degre…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Reach out to campus support centers early on in your college career. I feel really lucky to have created mentor relationships with staff at the university who know what you're going through and are eager to help you succeed!

  • 9ff1fe58-45a8-4ff6-a7f7-e0e592aa4aca.jpeg

    Alivia Rust

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    Carlson

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Growing up, I did not learn much about college, as my parents did not attend. I heard about college through friends and neighbors, but never understood much about it. My parents were always at work while I was in elementary- high school. They have worked quite hard for what we have, but they are mis…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Although it may seem as though the odds are against you, you are enough! You can do this.

  • markenge.jpg

    Mark Engebretson

    Staff Member

    My U of M Community:

    University Libraries

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Neither of my parents graduated high school, let alone attended college. My mother dropped out in 11th grade and my father only went through 8th grade. Both grew up in small Wisconsin towns during the Great Depression. My dad worked as an over-the-road truck driver, a job he held for more than 30 ye…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Never give up on your dreams. Keep moving forward.

  • linda-kim-professional-shot.jpg

    Linda Vang Kim

    Staff Member

    My U of M Community:

    CEHD

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Growing up in a single parent, poor, immigrant household, my mother emphasized the importance of education. She never had the opportunity to attend school back in Laos and believed the only way out of poverty was to get a good education. Even though I struggled with ACT prep, college applications, a…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Don't ever doubt that you belong here. You are here because of your own hard work and commitment. Higher education systems may not have been created for us but we are here. Find your people on campus who will support you during your educational journey and beyond.

  • img_20200922_103737_2.jpg

    Kifaya Bishop

    Staff Member

    My U of M Community:

    Student Counseling Services

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    It wasn't until my second year of college until I learned of the term "first gen college student" to help me process the experiences and challenges I had navigating the higher education system. I was able to find a supportive peer community, an academic advisor, and a career advisor t…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Don't be afraid to ask for help. There is an entire community of us (students, faculty, staff), you're not in it alone. Seek out opportunities beyond the classroom experience (study abroad/away, internship, research, leadership roles, etc.).

    You deserve to be here and belong here! The UMN community is better because you're here!

  • e99c2913-71f5-4397-b26b-2f650e03e785.jpeg

    Ellen Harth

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    CFANS

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Attending the University of Minnesota was always a dream for me. I grew up on a dairy farm and knew I wanted to be involved in an agriculture career. My grandparents and parents pushed me to always work hard and never give up on my dreams. With the help of the Land-Grant Legacy Scholarship, my dream…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    It’s going to be hard. There will be days where your family or friends do not support your decisions and days that you struggle to balance academics and extracurriculars. Quite frankly, there will be days where you want to quit. No matter what, keep trying your best and do what’s best for your physical and mental health.

  • img-20190518-wa0018.jpeg

    Bassel El Mrawed

    Graduate Student

    My U of M Community:

    Humphrey, CLA, Law School, Masters of Human Rights

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    When I was in undergrad, my dad would sometimes drive me to classes. Every so often, he looked at the groups of students going on about and he would say "I always wondered what goes on behind those walls." He would then give me a proud look and say "now I get to know through you; Acad…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Do not be intimidated or feel less-than your other peers, you are where you are because of your hard work, perseverance, and talent. You deserve the success you have worked for!

  • 5199a69e-69b8-4caa-bd40-3bd80de54f88.jpeg

    Thi Bui

    U of M Alumni

    My U of M Community:

    CLA, Communications Studies, PES, MCAE, OTE, Asian-American Student Union

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    It wasn’t easy being a first generation college student but I was able to graduate successfully with the support of my friends, family, and community built on campus. My involvements with the Asian-American Student Union and many other cultural organizations allowed me to find a sense of belonging o…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Do what makes you happy. You are supported by more people than you think. Discover your passions through your classes, networking, and community involvements. You’ll find it.
    And most importantly, you are not alone.

  • dsc_0353---korbyquan-reed.jpg

    KorbyQuan Reed

    U of M Alumni

    My U of M Community:

    CEHD CSPP

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    The more I interact with college and graduate students, the older I get, the closer I get to raising children of my own - the more I realize just how important it is to recognize, engage with, and uplift first-generation students because in a lot of ways they are historically lacking those three thi…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Seek out perspectives as much as possible. It's okay to ask the most qualified person in the room for advice but know that there is a room full of people who have lived and survived very similar situations.

  • img_3381-(1---osirus-washington.jpg

    Osirus Washington

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    CLA

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Born in Columbus Ohio, I am the third of nine children. It was no small task for my parents to raise all of their children with no college education. My parents received a lot of help from my late grandmother who only had an eighth grade education. Education was given to us children from our parents…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Get it in your mind that you are going to have to work harder than most other students. You may have to work a job on top of figuring out these College/University systems. You may have a lack of a supporting cast. However, you will succeed as long as you work hard at it. Never give up, take no for an answer, or forget where you came from!!!

  • erika_wide-angle_pic_square_1000px---erika-sanborne.jpg

    Erika Sanborne

    Graduate Student

    My U of M Community:

    CLA, Sociology Department, PhD program

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I am decidedly #FirstGenProud today, as I look back and wonder how on Earth I even got to this point in my life. Here I am researching population health and global well-being metrics, in this exceptional Sociology PhD program, as a middle-aged PhD student, but my own well-being was pretty unclear wh…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    You write your story.

  • img_7043---abyan-osman.jpg

    Abyan Osman

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    Biology, Society and Environment (major)-CLA, Public Health (minor), PES and MCAE

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Growing up, my parents instilled the value of hard work and dedication. Since I was younger, I was always intrigued by the many topics in academia, whether it was science-based or among the social sciences. I always knew I wanted to work in the healthcare field and as a ninth-grader I researched dif…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    At the end of the day as cliché as it sounds, we are all human. You can accomplish anything. You need to knock on doors and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Go to office hours, go to tutoring sessions and connect with professionals in your given field. I know you can do this!

  • lyndaellis---lynda-ellis.jpeg

    Lynda Ellis

    Retired Faculty Member

    My U of M Community:

    LaMP

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    My parents were both born outside the USA; my mother was born in Poland, my father was born in Mexico. I was born in LA, in a hispanic neighborhood. I did well in school. I went to college on scholarship. At that time there were few women in sciences, but I was friends with several. I received…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Work hard and good things will happen.

  • img_20200429_000903_035---eric-r.-howell.jpg

    Eric R Howell

    Graduate Student

    My U of M Community:

    College of Continuing and Professional Studies (CCAPS) / MPS Civic Engagement

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    The odds were greatly stacked against me. I was reared in a disfunctional home and finishing high school was a huge deal to me. Though it was difficult to get my footing to establish a commitment to undergraduate school, I was able to see manifestation from the investment. Today, I am looking in the…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Never give up on searching your heart and once you recognize where your heart is searching, never give up getting to the places where your heart will take you new places. Emotions will change but your heart will not.

  • screen-shot-2021-10-01-at-1.46.51-pm.png

    Salma Hussein

    U of M Alumni

    My U of M Community:

    CEHD, CCE

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I attended the U as a first gen student. I struggled and was grateful to have mentors who championed me and believed in me. As a result of the connections I made I was able to successfully earn my undergraduate degree, go on to get my masters, and recently got accepted to an EdD program. I am gratef…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Be yourself. Ask for help. Find community. Lean in to your story. Remember you are enough. You are worthy. You are success.

  • screen-shot-2021-10-01-at-1.43.34-pm.png

    Zamzam Dini

    Graduate Student

    My U of M Community:

    Family Social Science - CFT program

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    Growing up with first-generation immigrant parents meant college was an expectation. However, how I would reach that goal would be a journey I would have to take on my own. When she was younger, my mother's formal education was forcefully stopped at 8th grade, so she could take care of her youn…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Remember, no one person or school counselor/advisor controls your path or future. Take advice and criticism with a grain of salt and trust your gut. You are the expert of your own life and don't give anybody the opportunity to sow the seed of self-doubt in you. You are worthy of success, just like everybody else. Also, never compare journeys. A degree, is a degree, is a degree.

  • screen-shot-2021-08-10-at-6.30.47-pm.png

    Kathy Santamaria Mendez

    U of M Alumni

    My U of M Community:

    Dept. Chicano/Latino Studies, CLA

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    I was born in El Salvador to a Honduran-Salvadoran mother and Salvadoran father. After the devastations our country suffered after a civil war and various natural disasters, my parents decided to bring me along in their migration journey to the United States in 2001; I was only 2 years old. I grew u…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Wake up everyday reminding yourself that you deserve to be here. Imposter syndrome is real, and I still struggle with it at times. Take a deep breath, remind yourself of everything you've accomplished, and keep moving forward with your head held high. You deserve everything that is coming your way!!

  • screen-shot-2021-08-10-at-7.29.33-pm.png

    Musab

    Undergrad Student

    My U of M Community:

    Carlson School of Management, Accounting

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    My parents have always instilled in me the value of education as a first generation immigrant. Despite not having the resources to tackle the challenges that my peers can navigate easily, I stayed determined to make something of myself. As one of the few black people in Carlson, I developed an impos…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    My advice for first generation students is to advocate for yourself. speak to your professors, advisors and college department for any resources that you need. To be a first generation means that you have array of experience. We have a lot to offer to the world and our unique experiences makes us different. Navigating the academic world will be hard when you are the first but you are paving the way for many others. you really made it here so pat yourself on the back.

  • koch-brandon---brandon-koch.jpeg

    Brandon Koch

    Faculty Member

    My U of M Community:

    Division of Biostatistics

    My #UMNFirst Story:

    As a first-generation college student with parents and an older sibling who never even enrolled in college, flying halfway across the country to start a PhD program in Minnesota felt like a gamble. Whenever I tried to talk about graduate school with my family, I was met with puzzling looks and found…

    My Advice for Other First-Gen Students:

    Find supportive mentors and advisors, and don't be afraid to ask questions.