Independent journalism about VU Amsterdam | Since 1953
18 April 2024

& Blog

USR / USC Universitaire Studentenraad / University Student Council

On their own merit

Stepping into university life as a first-generation student brings both excitement and challenges. It’s a delicate balancing act, managing academic pressures, personal expectations, and the persistent fear of not measuring up in a terrain where each step seems fraught with uncertainty.
University, with its unfamiliar norms and expectations, can be a bewildering experience for those breaking new ground in their families. Amid the academic hustle, there’s a constant worry about meeting expectations. Being the first in the family to attend university adds an extra layer of complexity, turning personal ambitions into a delicate dance with individual aspirations.

The pressure to excel isn’t just an internal struggle, it often echoes personal aspirations rather than familial expectations. Many first-generation students carry the weight of dreams, dreams of fulfilling their own potential and making the most of this unique opportunity. While this motivation propels them forward, it can also feel like a heavy burden. The fear of falling short, of not living up to self-imposed standards, can be an emotional challenge.
Taking care of mental health becomes paramount in this journey. Universities are increasingly recognizing the unique challenges faced by first-gen students and implementing support services. Seeking guidance from counselors, participating in mentor programs, and attending workshops on stress management can significantly contribute to creating a more compassionate academic environment.
Sharing experiences with fellow first-gen students provides a sense of relief. Establishing a community where open discussions about the challenges are encouraged fosters a sense of belonging. It’s akin to having a supportive team cheering one another on through the highs and lows.
In conclusion, the journey through university as a first-gen student is not just an academic pursuit; it’s a deeply personal odyssey filled with unique challenges. Recognizing and addressing these challenges is crucial to creating an environment where everyone feels supported and capable of achieving success. As universities evolve, acknowledging and discussing these difficulties paves the way for institutions to become spaces where every student, regardless of their background, can navigate the academic journey with resilience and a shared sense of accomplishment.

Many first-generation students carry the weight of dreams


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