On Wednesday, Oct. 30, I had the pleasure of interviewing Umama Moon, a first-generation student and current senior at UMass Boston. Umama is originally from Bangladesh, and she is a biology major on a pre-med track. She is currently working on getting into an MD/PHD program post-graduation, and she is particularly interested in research.
A first generation student is typically defined as a student who is the first in their family to attend a four-year college in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. When asked what being a first-generation student meant to her, Umama spoke to the independence and resilience that being a first-generation student requires. She responded to the question by saying: “For me ... you have to do everything on your own without getting any help ... if you fall, you fall, but you have to know how to get up from there, and just do it again, so I think like, it’s just like, keep doing it, keep doing it, even though you fall.”
In addition to being the first in her family to attend a four-year college, Umama is also the first in her family to attend an American high school. During the interview, she spoke to the difficulty of that adjustment, stating that she had to “learn everything day by day, and also try to fit in[to] the culture.” One specific challenge that Umama highlighted was the fact that she did not receive a lot of guidance from many people during high school. She said: “I didn’t have anyone that attempted to tell me, like, oh if you go this way, if you choose this class ... I didn’t know about like, school applications, like how to do it.” Upon dealing with this hardship, Umama visited her high school’s financial aid officer, stating: “from him I started the application, then I got to know like, all the steps, going through one by one, and then I got into [university].”
Upon getting accepted into universities, Umama examined her options closely. She chose to attend UMass Boston for financial reasons, and because of its proximity to people she knew in Boston, stating: “Overall, I think UMass Boston was the best option for me.” She also regarded the fact that UMass Boston is a public institution favorably.
Umama then spoke to the further adjustment of coming to a large university, citing picking classes and choosing a major as obstacles. However, Umama persevered, stating: “It was really hard for me for the first semester, I would say, to go through all these things, and then I kind of figured out which way I wanted to go, and which way I didn’t want to go.”
Finally, when asked about advice for other first generation students, Umama said: “I feel like they [first generation students] have to figure out like, what they want to do first, and obviously in university you have a lot of people to help you.” She went on to say emphasize the importance of getting to know the resources around you, saying: “if you get to know your advisor, or someone else, you can take a little step, and go from there to a bigger step, like one by one.” She continued: “if you don’t know anyone that can help you in your family, or like, around you, obviously try to get all the help from UMass Boston if you’re coming here ... and use it.”