Virginia Tech™home

Resources for first-generation students

A student's perspective

When I entered Virginia Tech in the fall of 2018, I would have never guessed how much the first-generation identity would mean to me today.

I knew that because I was the first person in my family to attend college, things would be different for me than they were for most of my peers. However, I didn’t feel the full effects of this identity until my first football game, when I was curious about the seating arrangements in Lane Stadium. As I asked about them, one of my friends turned to me in disbelief and said, “Have you never been to a Tech football game?” I simply responded, “No, I haven’t.”

This conversation made me fully aware that my first-generation identity makes my college experience dramatically different from students who do not hold that identity. After that conversation and a series of other incidents, I wanted to find a community of people who could understand and identify with my experience as a first-generation student.

It was hard to relate to some of my friends because as I was figuring out how to navigate the college environment, I felt like everyone I would go to for guidance had an advantage before they enrolled. So when positions opened up to become a Hokies First peer mentor, I couldn’t help but apply. In my first few years at Virginia Tech I failed to utilize first-generation support, and I wanted to change that.

Additionally, I wanted to be an effective mentor who could identify and resonate with many of the obstacles first-generation undergraduates have to overcome. In addition to being a mentor to first-generation students, I’m also part of a steering committee that is working on creating a first-generation living-learning community. I was in an LLC my first year and although there were some ups and downs in that experience, I grew so much from it. I always said that if I was given the chance to have some input in the way a living-learning community operated, I’d take all my experiences and make it better for the next group of students. I’m excited to be a part of an experience that creates a healthy and professional environment for first-generation students to grow.

Even though I have only been actively involved with First-Generation Student Support for about one semester, I have used so many resources. Through this program, I heard about the First-Generation Student Support Group through Cook Counseling Center and attended professional and personal development workshops about communicating with professors, time management, and more.

My position as a mentor has also given me the ability to network with other first-generation students and form relationships that I would not have had access to if I weren’t involved in this program. On a campus this large, First-Generation Student Support made it feel smaller and helped me realize that my experience as a first-generation student doesn’t keep me from achieving my professional and social goals within my time at Virginia Tech and beyond.

It’s important to take a step back and analyze those parts of our identity that make us unique. There is not a blueprint for the Hokie experience, but there are many resources available to help us navigate it. First-Generation Student Support, Cook Counseling Center, and the Hokies First Peer Mentoring Program are only a few of many.

E. Osuwu
Photo by Mary Desmond for Virginia Tech

Junior Elizabeth Owusu is a Hokies First peer mentor, an intern with InclusiveVT, and member of the Kwame Ture Leadership Academy. She is a triple major in Sociology, Criminology, and Political Science.