Betelhem Kelfe '23

Betelhem KelfeMajor: Biology

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

Being the first in my family to have the opportunity to attend college was both a challenge and a learning opportunity. I didn't have the many close resources that my peers had when applying for college, looking at financial aid packages, and ultimately deciding where to attend. This motivated me to be more aware of what resources I had accessible to me and made me make sure to utilize the people that were willing to help me. When coming to college I was blindsided by how different the environment was compared to my high school. I felt behind because I had no idea what to expect but during orientation, I realized that I am not on this journey on my own and I am surrounded by the kindest people that will go above and beyond in order to see me succeed. Making sure to attend important events including the activities fair, participate in the FGEN Mentorship Program, and become comfortable with my professors and the Learning Commons were the key factors in having a great first semester of college.

What does it mean for you personally to be a part of the FGEN community and, specifically, to be an FGEN student ambassador?

Becoming part of the FGEN community at the University of Portland was one of the best decisions I made during the start of my freshman year. Every person I met during the events I went to made me feel like I belong at the university. It is a community of some of the best people I have had the chance to meet and they are all very willing to help in any situation I am in. As an FGEN ambassador, I now have the opportunity to provide the same experience I was able to have during my freshman year to the incoming class of FGEN students. I will be able to use the lessons I learned through being a mentee and through my own experiences as a college student to help my mentees feel as if they are beyond prepared to take on their first year of college.

What is your advice to FGEN students at UP who are facing challenges?

First-gen students at UP who are facing challenges should always keep in mind that there are people all over campus that are willing to help them with what they are facing. Although it may seem as if they have to solve all their problems on their own, college is nothing like that and there is always the FGEN community that can help them or direct them to where they should go.

Did a mentor play a role in your experience?

Yes, I was part of the FGEN Mentorship Program and had an amazing mentor that helped me all throughout my first semester of college and who I occasionally speak with still. She is a biology major, like me, which allowed for a greater connection between us and I was able to use her experiences and feedback from her four years in my own journey as a pre-med student. She showed me where important resources were on campus including the SARC office and MRC office, how to become more comfortable with attending office hours, and answered many different questions I had while adjusting to my new life. This made me want to become more of an asset in the FGEN community and provide the same help I was able to receive to the new class of freshmen.