A First-Generation College Student at Princeton

December 14, 2017
Andrea Reino

I am a first-generation American and a first-generation college student. Coming to college was not an easy process; while my parents offered me unconditional support, they could not advise me based on previous experience. All of my friends’ parents had gone to college and were therefore able to give their children detailed accounts of what it was like, providing them with an easier transition to their new lives. I started noticing my friends pulling away as they adjusted faster to the college atmosphere; meanwhile, I found myself unable to be as independent as everyone else. I hadn’t realized that growing up with only my sister and parents in America had made me incredibly dependent on them.

I am sure each first-gen student has a unique experience; I can tell you a little bit about my own. Going off to college is a huge shock for most people, and it’s even more of a shock if you’re unprepared and alone. One of the most interesting parts of being a first-generation college student is that my parents are along for the ride, but from a different perspective. They are fascinated with anything and everything to do with the American collegiate system, because they’ve never been through it themselves; thus they are completely invested in my experience.

Since my parents aren’t able to give me experience-based advice, I was a little worried coming into my first year that I would be at a complete disadvantage. To my delight, I found that Princeton has so many resources for students like me! I joined a group on campus called Scholars Institute Fellows Program (SIFP), which provides me with a weekly mentorship group to talk about my life as a Princeton student. Through this, I’ve gained access to wonderful students and faculty that have been able to open many doors for me that I wouldn’t have even known existed.

My first year with SIFP was so valuable that I decided to pay it forward by joining the Princeton University Mentoring Program (PUMP). Only this time, I am the mentor, not the mentee. This has been such an incredible program so far, and it has enabled me to meet other first-generation and/or low-income students and provide a helping hand.