Loyola University Chicago

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Loyola University Chicago

First-Year Experience

Marie Janzen

Senior, Journalism & Political Science, Milwaukee WI

Coming into college, I didn’t know “first generation” was even a thing until I met someone (who is now one of my best friends) who had said she was, freshman year. I was a little unguided my first semester, but I was excited to be in a new environment and wanted to achieve the goals I had in mind. I came in solely wanting to be a journalist and I’m going to graduate with a degree in journalism, accompanied with a degree in political science. Every year has been a struggle for me in terms of tuition, but my first year was the hardest because I had never applied for a loan or filled out a FAFSA form. I did a lot of things on my own because my parents really did not know how to assist me and at 17, I had no idea who I was suppose to seek out for help and was embarrassed in a way to ask for help.  In my senior year, I now embrace the title as a first generation student because I realize that it is a big accomplishment not only for me, but my family.

Honestly, the entire process from senior year of high school until moving into my dorm is a complete blur. I remember applying to some colleges because I knew people who did and they had recommended me to apply. I honestly applied to Loyola because there was no application fee and one of my closest friends in high school applied. We didn’t do family trips to view colleges. The closest thing I had to that experience was driving through Marquette’s campus because I lived in Milwaukee and it’s on the way to the lakefront.  I think everything came into focus for me when I moved in and met my roommate’s parents. Her mother asked me how many siblings I had and I responded I’m the middle child between two brothers. She then asked where my older brother went to college and I remember saying nowhere, which caused this awkward pause. At that point I didn’t necessarily know I was “first-generation”, but I did have this impression that I was somehow doing something more with my life and that motivated me through the year.  

I ultimately chose to go to Loyola because I knew I wanted to be a journalist and Chicago would present more opportunities for me. This aspiration was the only thing that actually pushed me to pursue college. It was all about the end game. I remember showing up for orientation and being one of few students who hadn’t viewed the college prior. I also remember feeling like I completely belonged here my first week though.

My father joined the military and my mother is an immigrant from the Philippines. There was really no pressure to pursue higher education, which was nice because it provided a mentality that there are other things you could do and it wouldn’t be the end of the world. At the same time, there was a void where support should’ve been to apply for college and throughout my experience. Although since I was the first in my family to go to college, my family hadn’t really experienced the process, so I don’t blame them for not being able to assist me. My family played a large role because I wanted to go away for school, but ultimately stayed close enough where I can jump on a train to go back any time I needed to. They may not have been able to support and guide me in those moments, but my family is my foundation – the roots that hold me down.

Even though I was late to my first class, which was terrible because it was at 11:30am, the first day of classes was awesome. I will never forget feeling so much pride. It wasn’t necessarily because I was the first in my family, but because I personally wanted to pursue college and out of all the obstacles I had to overcome, I did it. After struggling with how to pay tuition and knowing people who hadn’t gotten accepted into Loyola, I immediately knew it was a privilege to be sitting in those classrooms. I turned into a sponge, just absorbing every word the professors spoke and every little detail someone new I met would say.

For someone who didn’t really know what to necessarily expect from the college experience coming in, I can’t really say that there is. You meet so many different people from different places and I think the biggest thing I learned freshmen year was that you might not be able to initially relate to someone as soon as you meet them, but you should take that with stride and be open-minded.

Although higher education was not necessarily pushed by my parents, they always emphasized good grades growing up and it was just habit that I had, to meet this standard. Also, because I was the one who did all my tuition stuff, I knew that it was game time. This wasn’t my public high school where I had to just pay for lunch every day. I literally invested in education and I needed to see it through. Time management was my biggest problem and that overwhelmed me to a point where I knew I needed to fix it. So to this day, I sit down on Sunday nights and plan out my priorities for the entire week.



The Office of First Year Experience · 255 Sullivan Center 1032 West Sheridan Road, Chicago IL 60660
Phone: 773.508.7381 · Website: www.luc.edu/firstyearexperience

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