Adjusting to college as a first-generation student doesn’t have to be daunting.
My parents emigrated from Guatemala to the United States decades ago. Growing up, my father almost always worked every single day of the week as a landscaper to provide for us. My mother took on the role of homemaker and looked after my siblings and me. My parents' sacrifices have allowed me to pursue higher education.
My high school peers and teachers often praised me for my work ethic. So when I came to the University of Florida in the summer, ingrained in my mind was the assertion that the transition to college would go smoothly for me. However, that would prove to be false over the next six weeks. I struggled with imposter syndrome. I couldn’t convince myself I was up to par with UF's newfound reputation as a top-five public university.
I have an older sister who also goes to UF;I am incredibly grateful to have her in my life. We share a tight bond over our experiences growing up under the high expectations set by our parents, and often put aside our mental health needs to strive for academic excellence. That’s not okay.
I haven’t been taking care of myself, which is a hard pill to swallow. I have cried more times than I would like to admit. But for years, I’ve brushed it off as a sign of weakness.
I’m responsible for serving as a role model to my four younger siblings. I want them to know that it is possible to accomplish their goals through ambition and resilience. But sometimes, it feels like I fall short of this responsibility when I choose to "take a break" from my coursework by scrolling mindlessly through social media. Or when I take naps throughout the day to rejuvenate. Or more recently, when I withdrew from a course that would have otherwise hurt my GPA.
The truth of the matter is that I am not a perfect student. I may not score high on exams or write the best essays, but that does not indicate that I am less intelligent than others. While I understand the importance of working hard in school, it shouldn’t come at the expense of my mental well-being.
It’s toxic to attribute my self-worth to my academic performance.
My first-generation identity is a friendly reminder that I can overcome barriers that interfere with my growth. I’m the product of those that paved the way for me. I will continue to luchar por mis estudios because I’m a bright individual who earned his place here at UF. I will not allow anyone or anything to tell me otherwise.
Miguel Pascual is a first-year UF aerospace engineering student.