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First-generation students at UCLA connect at First-Gen Welcome Soiree 2023

Pictured of students at a welcome event for students who are in the first generation in their family to attend a four-year college. (Stella Gray/Daily Bruin)

By Dylan Winward

Oct. 6, 2023 9:49 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 8 at 10:08 p.m.

The First To Go program hosted an event Wednesday for students in their family’s first generation to attend a four-year college.

The First-Gen Welcome Soiree was hosted in Bruin Plaza outside of Ackerman Student Union to connect undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff with key campus resources. The event also included free giveaways of hats and ice cream along with live music and dancing.

Astrid Colop, the program coordinator for First To Go, said the event was important in allowing first-generation college students to connect with people in similar circumstances as them.

Natalya Venegas, a second-year cognitive science student who participated in a dance performance at the event, added that events like the first-generation soiree were important in connecting with people because they understand some of the things she is going through, such as navigating health insurance in college.

“It helps build representation, and … I get to meet other people who are also first-gen – it makes me feel like I’m not alone,” she said.

Venegas said being in the first generation in her family to go to college was intimidating when she first started at UCLA, but she feels rewarded for her efforts because future generations in her family will look up to her.

“It was really hard, but at the same time, it’s very rewarding, because at least I know that … my little sister and if I have a kid, they can look up to me,” she said. “I’m glad to be the first one in my family to go to college.”

Alice Huang, a second-year cognitive science student who worked at the event, said she felt it is important to spread awareness about the need to celebrate first-generation students like her. She added that the event aims to connect students to resources they can use in college.

Colop also said the event featured over 20 campus partners, including the Graduate Student Resource Center, the Undocumented Student Program, and Bruin Guardian Scholars, a program that provides resources for current and former foster youth.

Yahir Perez, a first-year business economics student, said he came to the event after hearing about it from a friend because he was curious about resources available to first-generation students.

“I was interested to see the resources they have for people who are new to the whole college thing and who don’t really have parents or don’t really have older people to look up to, to ask for advice for college,” he said.

Although some first-generation students sometimes feel awkward attempting to access resources, the event helped provide contact with the staff involved with them, building trust and making him more likely to use the resources, Perez said.

Some students at the event said their other lived experiences and identities – such as being a graduate student – intersect with their experience of being a first-generation student.

First-generation students who are graduate students and who are faculty are also often forgotten, Colop said, adding that she feels it’s important that they are brought into conversations about the challenges first-generation students face.

Kowshika Krishnan Bala, a graduate student who is also a first-generation student, said she has discovered significant cultural and academic differences since moving to the United States from India, including in lecturing styles and campus organization. She added that events aimed at getting to know other first-generation students are important to her as she is getting used to life at UCLA.

“I’ve just moved to the U.S.,” she said. “Academics here … are different from what it used to be where I grew up, so it’s important for me to meet other people who are going through a similar experience and maybe get resources that are specific to people who are new.”

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Dylan Winward | Features and student life editor
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
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