My First Gen Experience with Engineering

Cornell Engineering student SunnyWhen I first arrived at Cornell, I participated in the Prefreshman Summer Program (PSP) to get accustomed the university atmosphere and to get started on classes. During this time, I met some of my closest friends that continue to support me. Specifically, many of my friends were other engineers that I interacted with during the Diversity Programs in Engineering (DPE) events and Ryan Scholars meetings. Leaning on the network that we created over that summer, many of us continued to work together as study partners throughout our introductory courses. As a first gen student, I found connecting with other first-generation students to be essential for my progress.

Through connecting with other first-generation students, I often found it easier to share and relate to personal insecurities while working through difficult course material. To find my place at this university, I needed to interact with other students that share similar experiences and doubts in order to understand that I was not alone in my struggle. I often turned to advising at the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) in order to gain studying advice and recommendations for other university programs. For example, it was through OADI that I learned about the Ronald E. McNair Program which is a TRIO program that focuses on moving underrepresented students move forward into graduate school. By participating in this program, I was able to expand my network to first-generation students from different majors and colleges and learn more about their experiences outside of engineering. With the added social support from these programs and from my close friends within the Ryan Scholars Program, I found it easier to meet and collaborate with friends within my major of Applied Engineering Physics. Although my path to higher education has been challenging, I value the opportunity to study and collaborate with knowledgeable and open-minded peers and to become a part of the first-generation community at Cornell.

—Sunny, engineering physics