First Gen. Some of you may only have heard the term, while there are many others that have lived it. To be first generation – is to be the first in your family’s generation to break a barrier.
Being first generation, you pave your own path. And me being the oldest of my three siblings, I was really trekking here. Through high school, my parents had dreamed I would go to a school like UCLA or Stanford, heck maybe even choose! We believed what we saw on TV – everyone gets in everywhere, right? #firstgenprobz We didn’t realize there was a whole process: extracurriculars, high SAT/ACT, straight As, idk being an olympic gold medalist.
By the time I found out there were so many factors – it was too late to go to a big shot school, but I got into the perfect university for me! I was happy with where I was and knew that this school would get me into medical school. I mean I got into university, all I had to do was pass my classes and I’d get into medical school, right? Okay, of course I had to take the MCAT & do a bunch of extracurriculars – then I should be fine. Easy-peasy…boy was I wrong.
As a self-labeled premedical student I was required to go to an advisor during my sophomore year, and she laughed at me. Not once did she ask me if I needed guidance, she just straight up told me – there was no chance I would become a physician, maybe I should become a science teacher or something? (mind you this was before my transcript had an F on it).
Sure I had a B- and one C, how was I supposed to know that I was supposed to get straight As? My parents thought Bs were good enough? Heck they were just happy I was on my way to achieving my dreams and that meant passing classes right? My advisor was supposed to be the one who guided me, but here she was crushing my dreams while I barely started my journey. A part of my was sad, while another part of me was really angry.
I became frustrated that I didn’t have a bunch of engineers or physicians in my family to fall-back on. I learned later that many people who enter medical school came from a long lineage of physicians. They were provided the knowledge, guidance and social capital (which I found out during my application cycle is very important) to get them where they wanted to be. For me, I was scrambling trying to find information on the internet – this was before “influencers” and real people mentoring students & before I even knew what it meant to be first-gen.
What was the result of all this? Well it ended up taking me six (amazing, phenomenal!!) growth years – through which I was able to find mentors within similar stories and backgrounds. They told me there was strength in my journey. They believed in me so much more than anyone else. They told me I was a badass and I would be a phenomenal physician one day. They guided me to the exact resources I needed. They instilled a voice in me, I did not know I was hiding.
Using that force of energy, I took it with me and continued my journey: FIRST GEN PROUD. I did it for other first gen students who were struggling. I did it for the first gen physicians who came before me. I did it for myself. But most importantly, I did it for my family. My mother and father who worked their asses off since they were young, to build me the life I needed to become successful here. I did it for my 17 year old Mother who landed in JFK not speaking a single word of english struggling to get on her flight to SFO to move-in with a bunch of strangers (my Dad and his family) in a strange country. I did it for my Dad who would work as a janitor after-school at this same school he went to high school – just to provide income for his family.
I am so freakin’ proud to be first gen. Proud of how hard my family has fought to get me where I am. Proud to pave a path. Proud to make something of myself – for them.
Being first-gen is tough.
But we are STRONG.
We are INNOVATIVE.
We are RESILIENT.
We are filled with a fire that can never be extinguished.
I’m so proud of you.
Sending you the vibes you need,
PPS If you’re in a similar boat as a pre-health or premed student PLEASE do not be afraid to email me!!
PS I want to add: I really would like to say that after this journey to medical school, I was able to smoothly navigate medical school. Truth is, being first gen stays with you. It’s not like you magically know how to get through medical school. Again, I had to learn to be comfortable with asking for help. Acknowledging that – I really don’t know what I don’t know. It’s hard to keep up with the right way to do things like for example, Anki!? And annotating First Aid as soon as first year. And knowing when to schedule Step 1 and COMLEX. I’m always feeling behind, because I know there’s a lot of my classmates that either have family members, friends or mentors (that are closer to them in age) that are consistently guiding them. This is why it is so important to have a support group or find a support group at your school. This is part of the reason why I started a chapter of Student National Medical Association at my school. Because SNMA genuinely wants to see you succeed and will provide gaps that your school may not be able to fill. Sigh, it’s a steep learning curve but I will never regret being first gen; I will never regret my journey! And I really hope to continue sharing my journey and inspiring other first gen students on their journey!