Where did you attend college?
College of the Desert (community college) transferred to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
What was your college experience like as a first-generation college student?
FYI - I want to be forthcoming as there are different definitions of first-generation. Neither of my parents have 4 year degrees. My Mom has a 2 year and my Dad finished his 2 year after I went to college. My sister started college 1 year ahead of me and dropped out after her first year, returning years later. So, I was the first in my immediate family to get a 4-year degree. I'll keep answering so if this is considered first-generation, you have my thoughts. As far as the experience, I always had blinders on to others' opinions and just put my head down but it was hard being a female engineering student. I decided to go to 2 year school first because I was afraid of failing out of 4 year. So I starting working at a KFC full-time and taking classes. My Mom just assumed I would be at the KFC forever and didn't think I would get my degree, especially since my sister quit college. My Dad was proud of me but he was also really insecure about not having a degree and felt I was surpassing his knowledge so he would give me hard time and belittle any accomplishments.
After the first year of community college at a small satellite campus, I moved an hour away from home so I could be near the main community college campus. My parents never saw the crazy schedule I kept trying to work full time and take a full load so they never really understood when I wouldn't have time to visit. I kept working up to 20 hours per week after I transferred to Cal Poly and got heavily involved in two engineering clubs. That meant I spent very little time doing anything but work, school or sleeping. Thank goodness for the amazing friendships I made with my classmates. We kept each other sane!
What message do you have to share with current first-generation college students?
Use your resources and don't be embarrassed to ask for what you need. I suffered (and still do) from major imposter syndrome and assumed my acceptance to both Cal Poly, SLO and Stanford (where I did my Masters) must have been a mistake. Fortunately for me, I connected with some other female engineering students who were honest enough to share they felt the same way. That really helped. Also, since I paid my way through my undergrad via working, grants and loans, I always felt my education was mine and something I was working hard to pay for. As such, I stopped worrying about asking questions and made use of all those office hours that I had paid for in advance!