I wanted to share some of the things I learned during my undergraduate career to first-generation students of color going through college or about to begin. As a fairly recent graduate, I wanted to write a list of things to remember or know that was important.
Then I realized, that this advice is practical to young people in general. So here it is, to the young people trying to figure out their life like I am, a small list of advice. This is not a comprehensive list, but some things I could think of.
- Learn to tell your story, be proud of it, and own it.
Own your experiences, your past, and your identity. Nothing is more powerful than someone who knows who they are, where they came from, and where they want to go. Your experiences are also valuable and add truth to your argument, truths that you have lived.
- You are enough. There is a reason you are there, you deserve to be there.
You’ll meet people who are doing amazing things, who’ll make you feel small and you’ll compare yourself to them. I won’t tell you not to because it’s inevitable. I will tell you though, to remember that you are enough, your efforts, your work, and more importantly, your existence is enough.
- Mental Health is important.
Sometimes mental health means therapy other times it means taking a break or learning to say no. Listen to your body and know that your life is a priority and your health a necessity.
- Speak up for what you believe in
Thanks, @Twitter for that one. Speak and then pursue the things that you believe in.
- There will be words and people that hurt you.
People who won’t always understand you or be willing to listen. Know that this does not make your feelings invalid. This also doesn’t mean you have to spend your time educating them, it is about reclaiming your time and valuing yourself enough to respect how you feel and when it is necessary to disengage.
- Your time is valuable.
During an internship interview in 2015, I was told that they knew my time is limited and for that, they understand the experiences I want to have should be worth the trouble. They made me feel important and realize that I should value my worth. So, don’t be afraid to own up to it.
- Use your knowledge to build your community up.
A formal education is a privilege that not everyone has the opportunity to receive. Use that privilege to bring people up, use it to make a difference in your community. You don’t need to wait until you have the diploma, you can use your formal and informal education now.
- Know what is going on in the world.
Read the daily brief from the New York Times or other news outlets, or listen to a morning podcast. Whether you do this while eating breakfast or on your way to class stay up to date with what is going on in the world.
- Paid internships #PayOurInterns.
Internships are important, but being paid to do one is also important. Get out of the safe campus bubble and do as many paid internships as you can and show the world what you have to offer– you’ll be surprised just how much that is.
- And for all my college students: College won’t be easy.
The classes, the finances, the workload, the expectations people have of you, the pressure you put on yourself, and how society makes it an individual accomplishment. Know that you don’t have to do it alone. find friends who support you, find family members who will help you, and find at least one office or space on campus that makes you feel welcomed.
And of course:
- Make relationships NOT networks, not “connections”
- Say yes whenever you can do something and do it. Give more than you get
- Ask people to be your mentors, even if it means only asking for advice
- You don’t need to have a degree or a formal education to make a difference right now.
- Make mistakes, be afraid you will and take the risk anyway.
- You will know what is right for you, even when other people tell you that you are wrong.Follow the things you are passionate about and trust your instincts, you will almost never be wrong.
No amount of advice will ever prepare you enough, but it’s always good to be prepared even if things don’t end up as planned.
Lastly, never let anyone clip your wings or stop you from accomplishing your goals. You were born to fly. You were born to fly, remind yourself of this when you feel broken. Remind your friends and yourself of this when you question yourself most. You are going to make it through. You’ll find your place; be patient with your process. Enjoy it as much as you can, because this is only the beginning.