Hawo Guyo

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First-generation students, who don't have a family history of higher education, are a group that make UW Tacoma a very special place. Read their stories as they tell, in their own words, about the challenges they overcame on their path to success.

Hawo Guyo, UW Tacoma first-generation student studying social workI am Hawo Guyo, and I am pursuing my studies in social work. For me, being a first-generation college student is the only way that I feel I can repay my parents for the sacrifices that they have made. In the year 2000, after a long and arduous process, my family and I were able to immigrate to the United States from Ethiopia. My parents made the difficult decision to leave behind their parents and siblings because they knew that by coming here my siblings and I would have a better opportunity to obtain a good education since in Ethiopia that was financially impossible for us. Thus, from a young age I was always aware that education was the primary reason for our immigration and with this knowledge I have put my all into my education so that my parents’ sacrifice was not futile.

I have faced a few challenges being a first-generation student. A big challenge is the dissonance that I experience being on campus and at home. My parents enjoy hearing about what I am learning but they sometimes fail to understand that it takes a lot of time to complete the work. As a result, they feel that I am not at home as much as they would like me to be so I can help out with my nephew and other family commitments as was the case before I started college.

Regardless of this quarrel that we have over my presence, or lack thereof, at home, my parents continue to be a strength that I draw upon to persist while in college. For instance, when I am stressed out my parents always give me great advice and allow me to have the space to vent if need be. I am immensely grateful to have parents who support me and my academic career especially since they help me keep my life in perspective when I feel overwhelmed with the coursework.

Based on my experience so far, a piece of advice that I have for other first-generation students is to make sure you take care of your mental health while in college. It is easy to become inundated with all the stress and pressures that the coursework presents but, after taking a breather it becomes easier to process the material that you are learning in class. Also, if that does not work, it always helps to have someone to talk to that either understands the pressure of being a first-generation college student so that you can get useful advice from them, or someone who is able to give you the space to vent despite them not being in your position.

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Written: 
May 10, 2017