First generation college student essay

Silvia is completing her final year at Wayne State University in Detroit. She is a psychology major looking into a career in either social work or occupational therapy. She interned over the summer working with children who have emotional, behavioral and learning problems and is currently working as a physical therapy technician. She genuinely enjoys life and generally loves people.

“What are you?” This is a question I get asked often. And often I want to respond with “human.” “What is your nationality?” Although this question is a little bit better, they won’t get the answer they are looking for. Someone’s nationality is the country in which they have citizenship. I respond with, “I’m American”, for that one. I was born and raised in Michigan. “What is your ethnicity?” DING DING DING! Every now and then someone does ask me this exact question. “I am Egyptian.” I say proudly.
Being a first generation American is most certainly a struggle. We want to be like our friends that we grow up with in school, but we still have the traditions and culture that our parents have brought with them to the United States. Culture is not the only thing they brought with them. They also brought their hopes and dreams with them, not only for themselves but for their children. Even the ones that weren’t born yet. From what I understand, it is difficult to be successful where my parents are from. My parents picked up what they had (including my older brother who was 2 at the time) and came here so that their children would have the opportunity to be successful.
The only thing is, our definition of that word was different. In Egypt there is a lot of poverty. My parents are from a village so they saw it daily. All of the successful people they knew were either doctors or engineers. I suppose that is what they always saw it as and that is what they wanted for us. They wanted us to all be doctors or engineers. What they didn’t completely understand is the concept that in this beautiful country you can do and be anything. They are so many more opportunities of success than they could have ever imagined for us.
I remember when I first started college they really pushed for me to going into Physical Therapy. The benefits of going into this career were wonderful. I looked into it, I got a job at a PT office. I know I’m young, but I just didn’t feel fulfilled. My first year of college I took several different types of classes; math, psychology, anthropology, sociology. I knew instantly where my interest was and that was in psychology. I remember looking up and reading the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) when it came out. I believe it was my love for people and realizing how different one individual can be from another that hooked me on to this subject. It just broke it all down. All the different disorders and personalities were just so intriguing to me. I looked more into psychology based jobs and that is when I came across occupational therapy. I could do anything with this career from re-teaching brain damaged patients how to move around their house to working with children with autism in schools.
I confronted my parents with my new found passion and it took them a while to understand. To be an occupational therapist you have to be accepted into a 2 year master’s program after your undergraduate program. To be a physical therapist it is a 3 ½ year doctorates program. My mom would often say to me “Just do the 2 extra years so you can be a doctor.” I didn’t want to be a doctor, though. I want to be passionate about my work so that I can be the best I can be for those who I have to care for. Do not get me wrong. I have wonderful, amazing and supportive parents. I love them more and more every day. I love that they left everything they knew and everything they were comfortable with for my siblings and I. It is as simple as they didn’t understand. But they started to understand more and more each day. They heard me better after every talk we had. I believe they have realized that not only is success important but so it happiness.
My advice for kids entering college (especially those with very involved parents) is that you don’t have to decide right away- what you want to do. I recognize that not everyone is going to have that passion in life but you should at least explore to see what it is that you really want to pour your heart into. As a human being you have to constantly grow. If you dislike what you are going into, how can you excel? How can you give to the world and the people who surround you?

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