Lifting My Spirits and Helping Me Overcome Barriers: Reflections on the First Gen College Retreat
Earlier this fall, I was at point in my life where everything was going wrong and I craved being surrounded by people who shared similar struggles. I was seeking motivation because I began questioning my ability to succeed in academia. When I learned about the First Gen College retreat, I instantly applied.
Before the First Gen College Retreat, I had never experienced a retreat with students from different backgrounds who all identify as first generation college students, like myself. Being surrounded by students who could relate to the challenges I was facing made me feel hopeful, particularly since I have a lack of support at home.
I feel fortunate to have spent seven hours with students who, despite the barriers, still plan to obtain a higher education. I really loved that we were all present in the moment (away from all devices) and that we embraced the safe space that created instant support among us.
Normally, it takes more than just a day or a couple of hours to feel comfortable and trust those around you, but at the retreat it was different. It was like my ideal world, because everyone at the retreat could relate and understand the struggles of being first generation college students.
The activities that we participated in boosted my self-esteem. Prior to attending the retreat, my self-doubt was rising. I was questioning my ability to move forward. I was losing
track of my short and long term goals and began to believe that I wasn’t going to make it very far.
Through one of the team activities, I learned the importance of communicating clearly and efficiently in order to find alternate routes to success, instead of giving up. Oftentimes, as first generation college students we get used to not seeking help when we need it. This activity was an eye opening experience because it convinced me that I’m not alone in the struggles I’ve been facing and that it’s okay so lean on others for extra support.
Climbing the wall was a self-realization moment for me. Not only did I make it to the top, but I overcame another fear, my fear of heights. The wall became a symbol of all the barriers I’ve overcome, including the border between Mexico and the U.S., which my family and I crossed back in 1999.
The retreat helped me get myself back on track. If it weren’t for opportunities like the First Generation College Retreat, students like me would be settling for minimum wage jobs, and giving up on school. Thankfully there are people, like those at First Gen College, who genuinely want to see us succeed.