Gustavo Arreguin Mendoza
Sophomore, Spanish and International Studies, Salvatierra, Mexico
- Please discuss your experience as a first generation college student thus far
As I came to find out, I was not the only one who was overwhelmed by the amount of information floating around college applications and scholarships during my senior year of high school. My parents could not help me with the process because they were unfamiliar with this type of deal. I had to figure out everything on my own, from what schools I’d be applying to, to financial aid and FAFSA while balancing my academics and extra-curricular activities. It was pretty stressful. Once I came to Loyola, I wasn’t sure that I had come to the right place and my parents were putting a lot of pressure on me. The most difficult part has been keeping my parents on the loop with everything while doing most stuff on my own. Payments and all that stuff because they’re unfamiliar with the processes.
- Why did you choose Loyola University Chicago?
I “stumbled” upon Loyola University Chicago; I had applied to other Catholic and Jesuit schools without knowing what the word “Jesuit” meant. I was simply reading their mission statements and loving the idea of an education surrounded by service and faith. My school counselor suggested Loyola once Fordham (my top choice at the time) didn’t give me much aid. I applied and got in. I had no idea where I was going and it was April 30th. Since the decision needed to be made by May 1st, I ended up picking Loyola without visiting or knowing anything about it. Came here and felt pretty lost and disconnected since I was commuter, but all that changed by second semester.
- What role, if any, did your family play in your decision to come to college? What role, if any, did your family play in your decision to come to Loyola University Chicago?
My family had very high expectations of me and were hopeful that I would end up somewhere near so that I wouldn’t have to leave home. They wanted me to attend my top choice, wishing the best for me as all parents do, and once they found out my top choice was in New York they began to talk to me about schools here. They let me figure things out on my own, they stayed out of it which made it very stressful for me, but since then I have learned to value that pace to make such life-changing decisions.
- Describe what the first day of classes was like for you
First day of classes: half an hour commute on the train at 7am in order to make it to my 8:15am Chemistry class. After that the day went well, I liked all my classes. Met some people I still talk to, and we ended up taking classes together all year. Overall it was a good day.
- Are there things that you cannot know about the college atmosphere that you can only learn by experiencing it? If so, what are they?
Part of the college experience is living on campus and I have not had a chance to experience that during a semester since I commute. I think it’s important to network outside of your comfort zone and meet people you have classes with in order to feel part of campus. I think the sense of “home” and belonging is developed as you begin and continue your education at a college campus.
- During the school year, how did you manage your school work? How did you stay focused?
I didn’t manage my time very well first year. I had two part-time jobs, commuted, and took five classes. It was a rough time, until I discovered Google calendar and used the planner I received at Orientation. This doesn’t work for everyone but it certainly did for me. Second semester I was able to get it all together and my classes turned out to be great and I improved a lot by that time.
- If you could give first generation college students any word of advice, what would you tell them?
First year is great because there is a lot to discover about yourself and your interests, but while it’s important to manage your time, realizing that you don’t have to figure your life out at 18 is helpful. Don’t just meet other students, find yourself someone you trust and feel comfortable around and ask them for advise, don’t be shy about it, voicing your concerns and worries always helps and having that person there to help you out will be great. This will help you stay mentally and spiritually healthy during your first year. Never, EVER, think that your parents are thrusting you into the world without helping you. Remember that just like you, they don’t know how to “college” but they look after you and love you, so take their hands and “college” yourself with their help.