‘I have to remind myself I deserve to be here’ — First-generation students share experiences

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First-generation female college students Saraih Romo, Jasmine Limbong, Noriadnys Gomez and Nadia Terron lead a panel discussion on the first-generation student experience. Topics included racism, student accommodations and imposter syndrome. (Alicia Gerardo)

The First-Generation Student Organization hosted a panel discussion on the struggles of first-generation college students, immigrants and women.

“The First-Gen Talk: First and Female” panel discussion was in the Wilkinson Student Center on March 8.

The First-Generation Student Organization is a BYUSA club that fosters a community for first-generation students and their supporters. In organizing the event, the leaders of the organization said they hoped to spread awareness of the first-generation experience.

The four panelists — Noriadnys Gomez, Jasmine Limbong, Nadia Terron and Saraih Romo — shared their experiences as female first-generation students at BYU.

After the panelists were introduced, they shared their perspectives by answering the audience’s questions. Moderator Haylie Dougherty asked the panelists a variety of questions ranging from personal experiences to thoughts on how BYU students and faculty could improve in accommodating first-generation students.

Gomez began the discussion by describing the hardships that come with being a first-generation student.

“I didn’t have any family here. I didn’t know anybody here,” Gomez said. “It is really hard because you are having to navigate a world you have no familiarity with.”

Romo seconded Gomez’s statements by saying imposter syndrome is a reality for many first-generation students.

“You get to campus and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t belong here,'” Romo said. “I have to remind myself I deserve to be here as much as the next kid does and that I’m capable of this.”

Other panelists joined spoke about the issues of imposter syndrome by describing how the unfamiliarity of college has personally affected them.

“I’ve dealt with imposter syndrome since I was a child. So it was hard coming to college to see everyone else naturally adapt while I am trying so hard to navigate and figure out what college is all about,” Limbong said. “I just have to remind myself every day I’m here for a reason.”

Limbong also stressed the importance of recognizing stereotypes and assumptions. She said she experiences racism and many assume she is Hispanic, but she is Indonesian.

“Do not assume. It’s always better to ask clarifying questions rather than just assuming things,” Limbong said. “Each person has a unique perspective, they have a different background and different cultures they were raised in.”

In the discussion of racism, Romo added her lingering fear of encountering racism at BYU. “To be Hispanic in a predominantly white school, you pray and hope that no one is going to say a race joke when you’re at a game night,” Romo said.

The female panelists offered closing thoughts on their hope for an increase in empathy on the BYU campus in regards to first-generation students.

Terron said one way to be an ally for first-generation students is to educate yourself and be self-aware. Terron described how increasing one’s personal awareness of what they say and do can help change the “commonality” of casual racism that accidentally arises.

Terron added her experience finding comfort in the variety of resources BYU provides. In describing her triumph over some difficulties she faces as a first-generation student, Terron stressed that struggling students should ask for help.

“It is okay to ask for help even though it is scary. You do not have to do this by yourself,” said Terron.

Noriadnys Gomez shares her experiences as a Venezuelan immigrant at the “First-Gen Talk: First and Female” panel on Tuesday. The panel answered questions provided by the audience in hopes to raise awareness of the difficulties first-generation students face. (Alicia Gerardo)
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