, gathering and celebrating first-year students who are the first in their family to attend college, and their families. St. Thomas students, faculty and staff – many of them first-generation college students themselves – spoke about their own experiences and shared advice about navigating the college landscape for the first time.
The Newsroom talked with several people about their personal experiences.
First-year student Claire Finken. “Going to college … has always been expected of me. I’m very proud to be here. … I’m paying for my own way, so the scholarship money was amazing. It was a big rush for me figuring out this is where I wanted to go.”
Sophomore Aria St. James. “At first it was such a rush, with everything happening at once. … Now I have a lot more confidence on campus. The REAL program was great for helping me, and finding the spaces and people on campus that make me feel comfortable.”
Marketing, Insights and Communications staff member Ed Kim. “It’s a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity early on. You learn a lot about what you don’t know in the first couple of weeks. … But then you figure it out. It’s like any kind of language immersion program; you learn by living it.”
Sophomore Samantha Hoanglong. “What drew me here and has helped me so much was the small class sizes. … That personalized attention from my professor is huge as I’ve learned how to do this.”
Chase Horrigan, first-year from Milaca, Minnesota. “It’s hard being on your own and having your parents be an hour and a half away. You have to do your own stuff, but be big enough to ask questions of people if you need answers.”
Sophomore Molly Rausch. “You learn how to be independent and still have fun. I’m still trying to figure out the right balance. … Last year I was terrified at this point [right before school started]. Now, I’m so excited to be back in this amazing environment with my friends.”
Student Affairs staff member Vern Klobassa. “We can build up college to be this ivory tower that only a select few can make it in. I had in the back of my head [starting my first year] that, if I’m going to do this, I can’t fail. It wasn’t until my second semester that I felt … like this college thing is for me. I belong here.”
Sophomore Viridiana “Vivi” Arevalo. “Coming to St. Thomas was very hard; I had a lot of responsibility still put on me by my family. … Now, after my first year, it’s more exciting. I’m a chain breaker and changing things for my family.”