Wu Discusses the Complexities of the First-Generation Identity

This article is a part of a larger feature series titled Taking the Temperature of Diversity and Inclusivity at BC in 2018


here is not a universal definition of what a first-generation student is, but the First-Generation Club defines it as someone whose parents have not completed a course of study at an accredited four-year university, according to Shihua Wu, vice president of the First-Generation Club and CSOM ’20.

Wu acknowledged that many different people can fit into this definition. The club consists of students from various backgrounds, and he said that stereotypes about first-generation students at BC can be hurtful.

“Some conversations that would probably make first-gen kids on campus uncomfortable is you know, when students assume that all first-gen kids fit this one mode,” he said. “Although most first-gen kids are low-income, and maybe of a certain race or demographic, that’s not the case for everyone. There are people on our executive board who aren’t necessarily low-income, who pay full price.”

Wu endorsed the idea that BC’s campus environment makes conversations about inclusivity difficult. He emphasized that the First-Generation Club welcomes BC students of all identities. To Wu, first-gen struggles can stem from having so many identities students are a part of.

“It’s very hard to identify with just one group,” Wu said. “So I’m a first-generation college student but I was also an immigrant. I’m a first-generation American. I come from a low-income background. So, the idea of inclusivity usually means that you’re included to a certain group on this campus. So because I identify with so many groups, it’s kinda hard for people like myself.”

[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#8b0000″ text=”#ffffff” align=”left” size=”2″ quote=”So, the idea of inclusivity usually means that you’re included to a certain group on this campus. So because I identify with so many groups, it’s kinda hard for people like myself.” cite=”Shihua Wu, CSOM ’20, vice president of the First-Generation Club” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]



u also talked about the difficulties that first-generation students have, not just in trying to feel comfortable on campus, but also as students. Although the campus environment makes some students uncomfortable, the club is primarily meant to support students whose parents have not attended a four-year university.

“It’s very hard for, you know, first-gen kids to make that transition, just because they don’t have a role model like their parents to look up to when they have a question,” he said.

“BC has made a lot of progress in, you know, their support for first-generation college students. Right now, we have the Learning to Learn (LTL) Office, which is the office dedicated solely to helping first-generation college students navigate their … transition from high school to college.”

Wu said one of the biggest problems first generation students face is the lack of understanding from professors. They enter BC uncertain about how to adapt to the environment, and professors don’t seem to understand that some students don’t have a familial background in college.

“You get what’s called imposter syndrome, because things might get so difficult that you start questioning yourself and thinking that … you don’t belong at this school,” Wu said. “But professors don’t know what that is.

LTL works closely with the First-Generation Club to mitigate that issue, according to Wu, as well as working with the group on initiatives that support first-gen students with a wide array of issues, such as First Generation Week. Slated to begin today, the First-Generation Club and LTL are working closely to plan events for the week, including a celebration in honor of first-generation college students this Thursday.

The First-Generation Club is also putting together a new mentorship program this year. The program will match up freshman and sophomore members with a faculty mentor in order to provide students whose parents did not go to college with a role model who has successfully navigated university life. Mentors are chosen from faculty who either were first-generation students themselves or are knowledgeable about first-generation student needs.

Featured Image Courtesy of Shihua Wu

Scott Baker

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