As the first in my family to attend college, there was a lot of uncertainty and nervousness I experienced coming into Tufts. Being part of the FIRST Seminar in my freshman year helped ease many of those worries. The seminar, an academic advising and support-oriented seminar for first-years identifying as first-generation college students, was the kind of space I hoped I’d be able to find while adjusting to Tufts. Every Monday, our seminar met in Eaton Hall during the open block period, and every Monday I left feeling more grounded as a first-gen student at Tufts. The physical classroom itself wasn’t superb - with dim lighting and creeky chairs - but I found excitement in the discussions, presentations, and collective energy that inhabited that space throughout the semester. We started every class session with a one-word check-in about how we were doing, facilitated by our advisor. Our words varied week to week - ranging from “present” to “happy” to “drained” - and were an opportunity to share the realness of where we were at as individuals. Sometimes our check-ins would drive the discussions we had within the seminar, and other times, they’d serve as self-reflective moments for journaling.
Throughout the fall and spring semester, we had resource-based workshops that introduced us to many different streams of support and services on campus, including the Time Management Consultants and Career Center. Student input also drove one class on personal budgeting - certainly a tangible skill that I needed exposure to. For me, the seminar helped to discern and understand how to access the many resources available at Tufts. Moreover, the balance of workshops and discussion-based classes fostered a space where I could reflect on the intersection of my first-gen identity with academic, social, and economic-based concerns that come up. Some of my most memorable moments came from our community discussions in large and small groups about what being first-gen felt and looked like across our spectrum of identities.
Being surrounded by other students and an advisor sharing the first-gen identity, relaying perspectives, insight, and fostering community, was empowering. The community building that I had engaged in, in many ways continued for me out of the classroom - during meals in Dewick, coffee runs to Dunkin, lounging in Richardson, and down time in the FIRST Resource Center. It was fruitful to break bread with people, struggle, laugh, and grow together through the year. Two of my seminar classmates are now my suitemates and many of us work alongside each other in different capacities through e-boards and extracurricular programs. For me, that is a testament that the FIRST Seminar helped me gain a foundation of support that continues to ground me.
When I wasn’t in Seminar last year and now as a sophomore, accessing the FIRST Resource Center, a resource-based support center for first-gen and low-income students, has been really meaningful. As you enter the third floor of 20 Professor’s Row and walk through the space you see vibrant colors on the walls, photos of community members, quotes of resilience written by students, and often, students catching up or sitting on couches and working on homework. For me, the space is warm and homey and beautiful in the way it represents a commitment to fostering community and meeting the needs spanning the first-generation and low-income community.
In light of National First-Generation College Day having recently passed, I am grateful to the incredible support I have gained from the FIRST Seminar and FIRST Resource Center. I am and will continue to be first-gen and proud.