By Anika Jagasia
Accepting a college admittance letter is a monumental step. For the next four years, the college or university of your choosing will be your home. Therefore, it is important to begin this exciting period with the knowledge of available resources and opportunities.
Adjusting to college life is a different process for everyone. Some may have no difficulty in the transition while others may or may not know they could benefit from guidance. Fortunately, there are often opportunities and resources available to ease the adjustment period for first-generation or second-generation college students. Whether you are adjusting to life in a foreign country or simply an environment different from home, colleges and universities offer a number of campus resources for multicultural students to experience diversity. Additionally, extending beyond campus are a number of resources for first or second-generation college immigrants, and attendant with these resources are several academic, financial, social, and/or personal benefits.
Cultural clubs and organizations
College campuses possess a myriad of accessible resources that aim to ease one’s transition into college. Extracurriculars are also a way to enhance one’s college experience. Student-led organizations and clubs are two of the most common extracurriculars to join. Conducted in similar ways, an organization and a club differentiate themselves by their purposes. Student-led organizations are grounded by a particular cause they prioritize, which leads them to focus and act upon a cause or idea by spreading awareness. On the other hand, student-led clubs bring students together through a shared interest or experience.
Akin to the various interests among college students are the diverse backgrounds with which they identify. Whether it is attending school in a foreign country, missing home, or being eager to learn more about another culture, cultural clubs and organizations can be useful resources for anyone. Students of all backgrounds will obtain equal benefits and have several opportunities to join.
As a first or second-generation immigrant in college, there are ample opportunities to find a strong sense of community, deepen your understanding of your heritage, seek support in an easier transition to college life, and outwardly channel such interests through campus engagement.
- As a first-generation immigrant, a cultural club may help ease the transition associated with attending college in a foreign country. A cultural club may be a useful guide in the search for others with similar interests, provide a supportive environment to connect through a similar cultural heritage, and offer benefits and advice in all realms: academic, social, and more.
- As a second-generation immigrant, a cultural club may enhance your existing knowledge about your cultural heritage through integration and learning from others: You will have the opportunity to share your own cultural practices and discover other resources to further enrich your understanding.
- As either a first or second-generation immigrant, joining a student-led organization that tunes in on cultural, religious, or other aspects of background is beneficial in that it gives one an opportunity to learn about a specific existing cause. Whether it concerns a particular population, geographic region, or awareness on an issue, student-led organizations are an opportunity to learn how to initiate, vocalize, and spread awareness through service or events regarding a particular cause.
Developing skills as a resource
On the outside, it may not appear as if participating in a club or organization can guide one to discover further resources that extend beyond the club. Not only are there potential benefits for individual growth, but one can benefit in the long-term. Specifically, behind the scenes, there is a high potential for growth, education, and improvement.
- Collaboration among peers is an important skill that one will develop with experience. Developing communication skills, and taking on a leadership role is an opportunity to learn how to best work with others, in addition to improving individual skills. Such skills include improving time management, organizing events, and communicating on a broader scale with the campus community or even more established partnering clubs/organizations. Enhancing the skill of communication opens up networking opportunities and resources suitable for further learning and preparation for the future. Networking by holding events and corresponding with alumni members or event attendees is an accessible resource that may provide one with information geared toward their academic concentration or advice on plans for the future based on another’s experience.
Resources Beyond Campus
- Center for First-Generation Student Success (1) is an initiative by the National Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, known as NASPA (2), and The Suder Foundation. The Center’s mission focuses on advancing success through partnering with institutions to provide opportunities for networking and engagement through conferences and events, current media conversations, peer networks, and offering programs geared toward professional development. NASPA provides helpful guidance that may benefit those studying in a foreign country, such as first-generation immigrants, and may aid in obtaining advice or resources for future academic planning.
- National Association of International Educators (3), known as NAFSA, is a nonprofit association working to advance international education and exchange. Although it is an association of professionals committed to international higher education, NAFSA provides resources and assistance to students regarding financial aid for study abroad, resources from graduate students, career center advice, and guidance on financial aid for undergraduate international students (4).
- The U.S. Department of Education (6) has a page dedicated to the Educational Resources for Immigrants, Refugees, Asylees, and other New Americans. This page offers information regarding statistics regarding the integration of immigrant students in institutions, and external resource links pertaining to various growing minority groups.
- Organizations providing scholarships toward first-generation immigrants can be important resources. As many organizations create their own criteria for scholarships, navigating scholarships or financial aid based on variables identifiable to an individual can yield long-term benefits. Exemplifying the varying criteria for scholarship eligibility based on immigration status is a compiled list of 25 scholarships (7).
Overall utilization of resources
As the student body from many institutions contain diverse individuals from differing socio-economic, cultural, geographic, and other backgrounds, there are available resources across a variety of realms that can strengthen your academic experience (5). It is important to acknowledge the resources and opportunities available within and beyond college campuses. As policies, practices, and strategies exist to support all students, it is advantageous to utilize opportunities to the fullest extent.