#UMNFirst: A Guest Post by Aalayha Robb

Today marks the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration day. To celebrate, the University of Minnesota and colleges around the nation are sharing the experiences of first-generation college students, staff, and faculty. In recognition of this day, Aalayha Robb (Architecture) shares her own journey to becoming a first-generation college student here at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design.

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When I was little, my family consisted of just me and my mom. Unlike most kids at school, my mom was my best friend and she was, and always will be, my biggest inspiration. While my mom had her license to be a cosmetologist, she never went to a university or continued her education. My grandma and my stepfather never furthered their education either.

All my mom ever wanted was for me to get good grades and not have an attitude. She pushed me to read every night for what felt like forever and encouraged working through seemingly endless math equations. When I finally decided one day that I was going to go to college I could tell my mom was more proud of me then she had ever been before. I knew the best thing I could do to show my appreciation for all of her hard work was to finish college and get a degree. However, there were many speed bumps along my journey.

During high school, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. This made simple things that I used to love doing more difficult and less enjoyable. When it came time for me to decide where I wanted to go to college and what degree to pursue I was terrified. Being a first-generation college student means you’re going into this experience blindly. No one in my family had any advice to give, suggestions to make, or tips on applying for financial aid. All of my friends knew so much more about the process that I broke down one day and cried to my mom. I wasn’t mad because she couldn’t help me but because for the first time I felt like I couldn’t help myself. The summer before my freshman year was one of the most stressful times of my life.

As soon as I arrived at the U I found more people willing to help me than I could have ever imagined. Whether it was my advisor, a counselor, a friend, a TA, or even the CA in my dorm, nobody ever turned me away when I needed help. That more than anything helped me transition into making this once scary place my home. I continue to come across questions and concerns that nobody in my family can answer, but thankfully, I know I’m part of a community that is not only here for me but rooting for me to succeed. The best thing that I have learned in my first two years as a first-generation college student is that here, at the University of Minnesota, nobody is holding you back but yourself. Sometimes you just gotta jump in!

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