First-Gen Undergraduate: Yesenia Jasmin De Alba (Merrill '21, Latin American Latino Studies)

yesenia de alba sitting with crossed legs and smilingBackground: My name is Yesenia De Alba and I am from Hawthorne, California. Being the second oldest out of four children, I am the first to go to a 4-year University and the first about to receive my bachelor’s degree. My parents are both from Mexico, but my Mother is from Guerro and my Father is from Guadalajara. There are the two most hard-working, striving, and most amazing people I know. They have raised four children, and have made a home when they had nothing. My father being sixteen at the time came to LA and came to make a better life for himself to be able to provide for his family back home since he was the first child in his family. My mother being 19 came to this country to work and provide for her family back home, has inspired me to always keep moving forward and no matter how hard or challenging something may seem I can always achieve what I want with integrity and hard work.

What Motivated me to go to college: I think my biggest motivation for going to college is my parents. They have always been so proud of the accomplishments I have made in my education. Knowing of all the sacrifices they have made in order for me to have the opportunities they were robbed of is amazing. They have always taught me to go after my dream because not everyone has the opportunities I have been given. I definitely believe another big motivator is my older sister who has always supported me. Even though we are both on different paths and I was the first in the family to attend a four-year university she has always been by my side and supporting my decisions.

What’s the biggest challenge I encountered as a first-generation student and how I overcame it: One big challenge I have faced is definitely being so far away from home. You get this feeling of being alone and feeling alone because you are. You leave your home straight out of high school and you are so young and excited about this new opportunity in your life that you forget everything you are leaving when you move six hours away!  You have to adjust slowly but you get the opportunity to become your own person since you are alone and you become independent. The way I overcame it is by talking to CAPS and one of my very close friends who is from the same area as me and understood the hardships of being so far away from home.

How my background has helped me: My background has helped me in the way of always being strong and not letting anything get to you. My background of being a Latina has taught me that you have to keep moving forward no matter what and you can achieve your dream if you just work hard and honest. My background has taught me to be a fighter and to never take anything for granted. It has also taught me to not be afraid of following my dream since many people before me (my ancestors) have come from nothing and have achieved so much by following their dreams and always moving forward.

What I would tell my first-year self: I would love to tell my first-year self is that I know everything seems so new and hard but it's better for you to talk to someone instead of dealing with everything yourself. As well as telling myself that it is okay to make mistakes. I am human and no matter what I think or believe I am bound to make mistakes in my life the important part is that I learn from that mistake and grow from it.

The best thing about my college experience was: 

The best thing about my college experience would have to be the people I have met along the way. I met one of my best friends here and I also learned so much about myself. I know it sounds cheesy to say that you find yourself, but in my case I really found myself in college and it really helped to figure myself out here than it would have been to do it at home.