First Gen College Road Trip: Reflections on the Journey

Twelve days, 2,000 miles, six colleges, thirteen interviews- whoa!

Our college road trip was a blast. We were excited to visit with first generation college students and recent graduates around Northern California, and to capture their stories on film.

It was a whirlwind trip, covering a lot of ground, from Camarillo to Arcata (where CSU Humboldt is located), and lots of colleges in between. In the process, we recorded interviews with thirteen people.

We covered a lot of ground metaphorically, as well. Interviewees touched on the ways they have grown through their college experiences, their changing relationships with their families since leaving home for college, learning to become more independent, and the different strategies they have developed to pay for college.

Several people talked about the culture shock of moving from urban Los Angeles to a small college town. A few reflected on the adjustment from going to high school with predominantly Latino and African American students to attending a college with large numbers of white and Asian American students. They shared lessons they learned- some the hard way- and their advice for high school students thinking about college.

It was wonderful for me to get to see and spend time with these thoughtful young people who I've known since they were in high school.

I was moved by their openness and self-awareness. The people we interviewed have so much wisdom to share. Their insights and stories are meaningful, entertaining, and sometimes poignant.

We are in the process of editing a series of short videos from these interviews, which we will post on YouTube. The first three videos will be ready very soon. We will continue to release additional videos, one or two at a time, over the next several months. Aimed primarily at high school students, we are in the process of developing curriculum to accompany them.

I hope you will watch the videos, and appreciate the first gen college students’ willingness to tell their stories. Please share them in whatever ways you can (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, email, in person…), to help them reach a wider audience.

We want more people hear the stories of first generation college students. For first gen folks, you will likely recognize some of your experiences in the stories shared in the videos. Though everyone’s experiences are unique, there are common patterns in the first gen college experience, and they are all normal, even if they are sometimes challenging.

For everyone else, we hope the stories of the young people on the videos will resonate with you, and you will gain a deeper understanding of the first gen college experience today.

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