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Becca Fischer

Becca Fischer2


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

 I grew up in a small rural Eastern Oregon town of about 1,200 people, so moving to the big city (Portland) was a huge adjustment for me. Not only was I now swimming in a sea of people, but I knew no one. It was overwhelming and scary to be on my own for the first time in my life. When I was growing up, my parents were very active in our lives, and gave lots of advice in helping us make decisions and form our own opinions, but the transition to college was not something they could offer much advice to. In fact, the only advice I was given the day they dropped me off and set up my room in the freshmen dorms was the same advice my mom gave me every time I left the house when I was growing up... "Remember who you are." Words that will always hold meaning to me, and that I will send my son out with.

I think my going away to college was actually harder on my parents than me, as not only was I the first of my family to go to college but I also was the oldest child. For the first time in over 10 years since my sister was born, our family was going to be separated. It took a major adjustment by all members of the family, but we did it, and both of my siblings followed in my footsteps and earned college degrees as well.

My freshman year I didn't have a car on campus, so I would ride the train home for holidays and summer break. I relied on distant family members to come pick me up and get me out of the dank dorm rooms for a weekend away and some home cooking. I quickly learned how to find peace and quiet on campus when I needed to study, and I learned how to cook using only a microwave.

Aside from the support of my parents in believing in me and my potential for success, my academic advisor/mentor Dr. Tandy is one of the people I attribute a lot of my success as a student to. He believed in me, he pushed me to work hard, and he encouraged me to think independently. Although he was assigned to me as my advisor, we became friends and remain friends to this day, and I would not have ended up where I am today if he had not been a part of that journey.

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

 I had a roommate my freshmen year that did not mesh well with me at all. We did not see eye to eye on many, if any issues. Especially hard was that fact that my parents and I did not know that is was completely acceptable to request for a switch of housing assignments. I think knowing that up front would have saved my sanity my first year at Cascade College. But being a first gen student, I was not aware of the options available and I just stuck out the year. I spent many a night in my good friend's room down the hall, I confided in Dr. Tandy about my woes and I said a lot of "Dear Lord... give me patience" type of prayers.

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

 Find a confidant, someone you trust to hear you out. I think every first gen student needs to find someone they can just vent to at Starbucks or Taco Bell when their roommate is up listening to Brittney Spears straightening their hair and dancing with the lights on in the middle of the night. You need someone on your side who can give advice, but also listen to what you have to say...and keep you sane.

I also think it is super important to not be afraid to ask for help or ask questions in general. Had I known that I could request to switch roommates midway through my freshman year, I could have saved myself a lot of tears. Save yourself the agony of finding out the hard way, and find someone who can help you or point you in the right direction.

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

 Aside from Dr. Tandy who was my academic advisor and good friend, I had another mentor who really helped me "see the light" and make a decision that really changed my life in a great way.

 I was considering studying abroad my junior year and had submitted my application for the program to go and live a semester in Vienna. I was convinced that Europe was the place for me and although there was an opportunity to travel the Pacific Rim, it did not even peak my interest. The dean organizing study abroad called me into his office one day and asked me why I didn't choose Pacific Rim and attempted to talk me into changing my mind. He encouraged me to think and pray about it, and so I did. The last week we had to submit applications, he again called me into his office and prayed with me about the decision to change my plans and go on the other offered trip. By the end of the week, I had a peace settle over me that I was indeed supposed to change my plans and go on the Pacific Rim trip. In a matter of a day, I changed my application, was registered for my classes and was headed to China a few short months later.

Over the course of 3.5 months, I completed the trip of a lifetime. I traveled from China to Japan, to Hong Kong, to New Zealand, to Australia, and then rounded out the trip in Hawaii for 2 days. Over the course of those 3.5 months with 21 other complete strangers from our sister school Oklahoma Christian, my life was changed. An experience I had of holding hands with a Japanese woman (a complete stranger) in Hiroshima while looking at a mangled tricycle that was impacted from the nuclear blast, with tears slowing rolling down our cheeks is just one of the many experiences that helped change me. And that is just one of many life-changing experiences I had on that trip.

I don't know how that Dean knew what study abroad trip I needed to be on, but through his guidance and mentorship, I landed just where I needed to be. If I hadn't been prepared to listen, I could have missed out on one of the most defining moments of my college career.

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

 Going to college as a first gen student helped me realize my potential. I never would have thought a small town girl from rural Eastern Oregon would end up moving to Portland, traveling the world and then going on later to complete a Master's degree. Being a first gen student I had the opportunity to blaze the trail and decide for myself which way my path would lead. It helped me become an independent thinker, helped me learn to ask questions, and professionally it prepared me with the ability to ask for help when I need it. It also taught me that I am not alone in my journeys and that every step of my way I have mentors put into my life to help me through it... but the key is that I have to listen. 

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