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First Generation to College Community Reception Planned

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By Boróka Bó
Contributing Writer

Perhaps the best part about being in graduate school is meeting like-minded students: new friends who also love learning, intellectual conversations and have an appreciation for life in all of its complexity. 

And when meeting future classmates, finding some common ground based on social and educational background and parental socioeconomic status can go a long way toward forming more meaningful friendships.

What does this have to do with being First Generation to College (FG2C) at UCSF, you may ask?

 Well, nearly 80 percent of students who are born into wealth in the United States (with a family income of more than $100,000) complete a bachelor’s degree, as compared to only slightly over 10 percent of poor students (with family income of below $33,000). The chances that a student is both from an economically disadvantaged background and attending UCSF are slim.

Yet, while not all FG2C students at UCSF grew up poor, some of us did, which means that as much as we love hearing our classmates’ stories of vacations to exotic places and of parents donating buildings to their alma mater, we also know that 99 percent of the U.S population would have a hard time relating.  

And it sometimes seems that at UCSF, the 99 percent of the U.S. population is 1 percent of UCSF’s student body.

Of course, it would be grossly oversimplifying our First Generation to College Community at UCSF to assume that we all overcame economic hardship.  Our community is characterized by diversity: economic, cultural, ethnic and racial. Yet, despite our marked differences, when we meet each other, there is instant rapport and common ground between all of us. Here’s why:

  • We understand the value of never giving up. Even when the going gets tough, we can look back at a life of transcending and overcoming difficulties and know with certainty that we will do it again.
  • We understand that while we may represent only 1 percent of those at UCSF, we are the 99 percent. This means that we have the responsibility to serve the communities we came from, as they are full of deserving, brilliant, driven students just like us. We know that that they, too, should get a shot at a better life through higher education.
  • We know what it is like to feel like we are “passing.” I like to think that this means that we are on our way to bigger accomplishments, but sometimes it feels more as if we were “passing” as the 1 percent, as we smile along to the stories of weekends in Paris we may not be able to relate to personally.
  • We can talk about unequal life chances and the role of opportunity, luck and community with great gusto.

Which brings me to the next point. Having a supportive FG2C community at UCSF is invaluable for all of us. Together, we are strong enough to serve our larger community in the Bay Area, showing other students who may be the first in their family to dream of college that it is, in fact, possible.

Are you FG2C at UCSF? Do you want to connect to our vibrant and supportive community, meeting students, postdocs, alumni and professors like you? Come to our 2014 UCSF FG2C Community Reception on January 29 at 5 p.m.  in the Multicultural Resource Center to find out more about our student organization, in addition to First Generation Support Services at UCSF. More info/RSVP here: http://firstgen.ucsf.edu.

Boróka Bó is a second-year Sociology doctoral student.

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