A First Generation College Student’s First Year of College

By Stephanie Cuevas, Sophomore
University of California, Riverside

The transition from high school to college was a rather difficult one for me because no one in my family has ever gone to a four-year university and it was a drastic change in my life. I am very close to my family and moving out was not the easiest thing to do in the beginning.

When classes begun I had so much work and reading to do, and yet I was distracted by thinking about home and my friends. The highest point of my homesickness was spring quarter because my classes were difficult, I was more involved in school, and I got my first work-study job as well.

The stress hit me hard that I was ready to go home and just stop everything that I was doing. What kept me going was my mom, literally and metaphorically because I think about how difficult her job is and how she does it everyday to support me and my brothers that it would not be fair to quit when she has never quit on us. She is my motivation to keep going no matter how difficult and stressful it can get.

Moving from Los Angeles to Riverside was a major environment change because it is a lot smaller and has very drastic weather. Riverside is not that far, but living with people other than Latinos is different because I grew up in an all Latino neighborhood so I went through little bit of a culture shock. It was exciting moving and living on my own because I was able to make my own decisions, take care of myself and not worry as much about others. It’s not easy and some people prefer not to leave the place where they grew up, but I encourage and love to motivate others to leave their place of comfort and explore this world. There is so much to do and so many places to visit, but many of my peers do not realize there is more out there than just Boyle Heights itself. When I talk to kids in high school I always tell them that moving out and dorming was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have met people I would have never met at home, gone to visit new places in California, and have had unforgettable experiences. Going to a university does not just help you academically, but helps you grow personally and mentally as well.

I am done with my first year and am ready to start my second year at UC Riverside. I am excited because I will be living in my own apartment with close friends I met at school, I have a work-study tutoring job which I love doing, and am involved with my sorority, with a community service organization, and am a writer for an online magazine. What I do look forward to all the time is giving back to my community and doing volunteer work when I can. I love giving speeches to students because I want to let them know that there is more out there and that you don’t have to become a Hispanic stereotype which is to drop out and either join a gang or get pregnant as a teen. We all choose our paths but there are some paths that are more beneficial than others. Girls Today Women Tomorrow helped me mentally, financially, and most importantly personally. They were always there supporting my decisions and helping me since my junior year in high school. They were able to find scholarships, which meant I was able to get through my first year without loans. I also built friendships with girls and the staff and it made me feel comfortable being able to talk to them about anything freely and not worrying about feeling judged. I am thankful for all I have accomplished so far and will always stay determined to accomplish my goals and achieve all of my dreams."