In this newest installment of First Things First, our student-mentor pairs respond to the prompt “Has Being a College Student Changed Your Relationship With Your Family and/or Community?”

Both Gretta and Leon explain that attending UCI hasn’t really affected their familial or community relationships. In fact, Gretta says that going to class and being exposed to new people and ideas has actually increased her appreciation for her family and community. Meanwhile, Leon focuses on how her time at UCI has made her more independent and opened her eyes to new and interesting perspectives.

Responding to Gretta, Prof. Casavantes Bradford encourages her to embrace the growth and change that often comes along with attending college. She reminds that there are ways to respect certain family and community values while critically evaluating others. In his response to Leon, Prof. Kadandale addresses first-gen students who may be feeling some distance between themselves and their loved ones. He advises these students to talk to their families openly so they can better understand what they are going through. He also encourages first-gen students to seek support systems outside of their families because having multiple sources of support is important for succeeding both in and after college.

Gretta Ozuna

Because she is living at home while attending school online, Gretta explains that her relationship with her family and community seems the same as when she was in high school. However, as she attends class and interacts with students from different backgrounds and countries, she’s been exposed to different cultures, opinions, and values. Gretta says this has helped her appreciate her family and community as a whole.

Prof. Casavantes Bradford Responds to Gretta

In her response to Gretta, Prof. Casavantes Bradford offers advice for when Gretta is able to come to campus and really immerse herself in life at UCI. She explains that attending college and being exposed to new ideas sometimes causes students to change and feel like they no longer fit in 100% with their families and communities. Prof. Casavantes Bradford encourages Gretta to keep an open mind and embrace this process of growth. She notes that there are ways to respect and maintain your values while still thinking critically about some of the things your family and community hold on to.

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Leon Masuda

In this week’s update, Leon explains that attending UCI hasn’t really changed her relationship with her family or community. However, she does feel that living on campus has made her a lot more independent and responsible. She also says that college has given her the chance to meet so many new and diverse people which has been an interesting and eye-opening experience.

Prof. Kadandale Responds to Leon

While Prof. Kadandale is happy that attending UCI hasn’t changed Leon’s relationship with her loved ones, he acknowledges that this isn’t always the case for first-gen students. A lot of times, these students feel distant from their loved ones because their families cannot relate to what they’re experiencing. Prof. Kadandale encourages students who may be feeling misunderstood by their families to be honest and open about what they’re experiencing. He also recommends finding support systems outside of your family. Having multiple support systems is an important part of adapting to and succeeding at UCI and beyond.

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The First Things First project is an evolution of UCI’s First-Generation Faculty Initiative, designed to help first-gen students overcome the challenges brought about by the pandemic. This new “virtual” mentorship program pairs two incoming UCI first-gen students with first-gen faculty members for a year-long, social-media-distributed conversation about the transition to university life. The goal of First Things First is to help UCI’s entire first-gen population, as well as first-gen students throughout higher education, build a sense of community—even in this remote college environment. To further this project, we invite you to share this article on your social media channels and with your network.