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SCU First Gen Staff/Faculty Profiles

Chris Hanson
Assistant Director of Study Abroad, Study Abroad - Global Engagement Office
Where did you attend college?

University of California, Santa Cruz (BA) & University of San Francisco (MA)

What was your college experience like as a first-generation college student?

Being a first-generation college student, it was quite challenging and frightening to be the first person in my family to take the steps into high education, especially when I was dealing with imposter syndrome and familial pressures. I was also unaware of my resources and unsure how to navigate university life, so it took me a couple of quarters to settle into college life. Once I overcame the self-doubt, located my resources, and found my footing, I felt empowered to take it a step further in my university career and challenge myself by spending a semester abroad in Sweden and participating in several summer programs in France, Italy, and Spain. The hardest part of studying abroad was convincing my parents of the importance of having an international experience. I got into a good university, why would I want to leave and go somewhere else for what my parents a “gap semester”. However, after many many discussions and a PowerPoint presentation (no joke), I was able to convince them and go beyond mine and my family’s self-inflicted limitation and do something I didn’t dare to imagine I was capable of. Pushing myself, pushing my families expectations, accepting I belonged, and locating my resources/support network ultimately led me to study abroad, which in turn led me to my Masters’s program to the International & Multicultural Education, then to the professional field of international education, and ultimately here to Santa Clara University at Study Abroad within the Global Engagement Office!

What message do you have to share with current first-generation college students?

My advice to first-generation students is to know that you belong, you earned your right to be here. Don’t let anyone make you feel that you don’t, not even yourself. Try your hardest (though I know it isn’t easy) to not succumb to the feeling of imposter syndrome and push yourself into spaces that you want to be in. You earned your place at Santa Clara, you are a part of this community, you should take advantage of every opportunity you can get your hands on without feeling guilty or afraid. It’s not always going to be easy, so be sure to build a strong foundational community in the first quarter or two with first-gen students and non-first gen students. This way your newly founded community can not only learn from each other and challenge each other but also empower one another to be the best version of yourselves.