As I come closer to graduating in a few months, I want to give some advice based on my experiences I had being a first-generation Latina at U-M.
Never stop trying. I have gone through difficult classes that made me cry out of desperation. But, I have always lived by this saying, “You never fail unless you stop trying”. Even if you got a bad grade or are in a tough class, if you put in all the effort you could, you should be happy for yourself. We struggle because unfortunately we are set behind in academics because we didn’t have tutors, the most updated versions of books, nor classes where kids behaved which is unfair as many individuals had all these things a couple miles away. To make this point clearer, some of us are first-generation students. We do not have someone to turn to on how to navigate classes or college in general. My mom did the best she could to support me by always telling me “echale todas las ganas” which means “give it all you got.” Those words resonated with me all these years and are why I never stopped trying. At the end of all of this, your diploma is not only for you but, for everyone who is looking up on you, who is rooting for you, and even those who want to see you fail. You wipe those tears and keep trying. Never stop. Once you’re at the finish line, it will all be worth it.
Create your own spaces. I was not accepted into various organizations at U-M. Of course, I did not have the “qualifications” like knowing how to sell an idea because I was just a freshman figuring out what college even was. I only recently knew about college my freshman year of High school and even then it was a very distant image I could not quite figure out. Then, my sophomore year came along and I was rejected by another organization. My interview skills weren’t as good as the girl next to me who worked for Shei magazine. She had a renowned magazine under her belt while I had nothing. All the years in school, I was never taught how to do well in an interview. But, I knew I had the skills to join any of those organizations. So, I created my own organizations like La Casa and Latinidad Magazine. I want you to know that you have the skills! If you are rejected from spaces, you make your own space. They are not stopping you. Only you are. Because I believe in you, and I am sure everyone around you does too.
Be proud of where you come from. Both of my parents are factory workers. As I am writing this piece, my father is working with dangerous wires, and my mother is bending her back, screwing together dentist equipment. I am never ashamed to say who my parents are or what they do for a living because they provided me with a life full of riches money cannot buy. They integrated their traditions and culture in my upbringing.I thank them because now, I feel closer to my Latina identity. Your background has made you into the person you are today. And, the person you will be in the future, so be proud and never feel ashamed when someone asks you questions about your background.
Have fun. This is the time where you don’t have to worry about getting a career. Enjoy the little moments you have, like studying with your friends at West Quad or walking past the Diag. Don’t get lost in the books. These companies rarely care about your grades. They mostly care about what experiences and skills you have that the company can use to fulfill its mission. So, enjoy your time!
Of course, I can go on. But, these four have stuck with me and I hold dear to my heart. And, I hope it helps you throughout your years here. Know whatever your feeling or have gone through you’re not alone. I wish you the best!