Erin Zarafshan

erin-zarafshan3Current Position: Administrative Assistant to the Vice President for Financial Affairs

Alma Mater: Washington State University

Major/Undergraduate field of study: Linguistic and Cultural Anthropology

Q: What was it like being among the first in your family to go to college?

A: I had always wanted to go to college, but my family didn’t have the funds.  I received a small amount of money from an insurance settlement while in high school.  It covered the amount I needed for tuition, room & board for exactly one year of school.  However, I had no idea how I was going to pay for years 2, 3 & 4. A friend (now my husband!) encouraged me to fill out the FAFSA form and took me to the Financial Aid office to meet with a counselor to discuss all my options. That meeting was crucial for supplying the information I needed so I could continue my education.

Are there any unique challenges you faced as a First Generation student?

High School was easy for me and I sailed through with good grades. I foolishly thought college would be the same. When midterm grades came out my first semester, I was surprised but still didn’t change my ways. I believed I could make up for lost time on the final exams and bring up my grades.  Not surprisingly, that didn’t work. The next semester, I was on academic probation. I was so disappointed in myself. I didn't realize that the first semester was so important for setting a firm foundation for the next four years.  I knew I could take one of two paths: buckle down and be successful or go home and get a job. The bottom line was I wanted to stay in school and did whatever it took to be successful from that point on. This meant changing my group of friends; learning how to manage my time and study.

Do you have any advice for FGEN students at UP that are facing challenges?

ASK FOR HELP. It’s okay to do so!  So many of us have been in your shoes and can offer a listening ear or advice. It’s also okay to be afraid. College can, at times, be scary. If you aren’t sure who to ask for help, start with your RA, Hall Director or even your Supervisor if you have a job on campus. If you need guidance at managing your time or are disorganized; ask your classmates how they study and what they do to stay organized.

Did a mentor play a role in your experience?  How so?

I had two wonderful mentors while attending college. Karen Fisher and Gail Rowland. These ladies were my supervisors at different student jobs I held on campus. Not only did they supervise my work, they were there when I was feeling homesick, cheered me on during finals and offered general support. I love the quote, “Be who you needed when you were younger.” Karen and Gail were exactly who I needed while my own parents were 6+ hours away.  In my role as a UP staff member, I try to be as supportive to the student workers I supervise here at UP as Karen and Gail were to me.

How do you feel your experience prepared you, both professionally and personally?

College isn’t easy and I learned that I can do hard things! My education is something that no one can ever take away from me. Graduating from college is one of my proudest achievements to date. I am such a proud alum of my school and would not change my college experience for anything. Going to college opened my mind and expanded my world.

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