I am a first-generation college student and a Latina who decided to study abroad in Ireland. It was my first time traveling overseas.
My parents always encouraged me to get a higher education and have tried to help me as much as I can to get to college and finish my degree. However, they were surprised I wanted to do a study abroad program. They were supportive of me but, like any other parent, they were worried about their child going way across the world by themselves. They had little to no knowledge about studying abroad since they do not have a college degree or know anyone who has had a study abroad experience. So, I had to make sure I had everything figured out to help myself get to Ireland.
As a first-generation college student in my family, I had to seek out resources, people, scholarships, and programs to help me get to college and stay in college. And for my study abroad dream to become a reality, I had to do the same exact things — and I did. I went to the study abroad office so many times with all my questions whenever I could not figure it out myself. I applied to many scholarships to help me fund my study abroad. I knew scholarships were the only way for me to be able to afford to go on the summer program to Ireland.
I had a few bumps along the way. One big one was the initial program I applied for at Queen’s University in Northern Ireland was cancelled due to low enrollment. I had to find a new program that fit the scholarship requirements I already received and contact all the scholarships, my financial aid office, and my school to avoid being disqualified for anything. I eventually resolved all the issues and enrolled at Maynooth University in Ireland through AIFS.
When I arrived at my program, I saw there were not many students that were like me. A few were Latino, but many had parents with college degrees. Many people did not receive as much scholarship money as I had because their parents were able to afford it. I also did not expect for there to be a small number of minorities in the study abroad program. As I spent time with my American peers abroad, I realized how prepared I was even though I did not have my parents help to get me here as much as they wanted to. If I had a problem, I had to find ways to resolve it myself whenever I could.
I am thankful I have had the drive to get wherever I have wanted to go, especially when I want go half way around the world. I want to encourage other students who think they cannot go on a study abroad program because of the issues they face that they absolutely can. I am thankful that I am an example of a Latina and first-generation college student that went abroad, because it shows your dreams are possible if you make it work.