COVID-19 Blog

FGLI COVID-19 Stories

COVID-19 has greatly impacted many people around the world, especially first-generation and/or low-income (FGLI) students. With this special edition COVID-19 blog initiative, Rise First hopes to achieve three key objectives:

  1. raise awareness of the challenges FGLI students are experiencing during this unprecedented crisis,
  2. provide a platform for FGLI students to share their stories,
  3. offer support to the best of our ability (through financial assistance and a curated COVID-19 resources list)

Rise First is honored to be able to provide a platform for student authors to opt-in to sharing their heartfelt and inspiring experiences with others so that no one will feel alone during these trying times. The inspiring stories published here are unedited to fully reflect each author’s voice. They are weaved together by common threads of determination, hope, and a sense of community - we truly are all in this together.

The students named in the blog entries below have opted-in to display their bios and have provided headshots for publishing.

Posts from students at Columbia University


Citlalli Contreras-Sandoval - Columbia University

New York City expanded beyond me framed by the small oval window I leaned against. I could see the entire outline of Manhattan. The city appeared suspended in light as the rays of sunlight stretched across the sky. I looked down to see Astoria Queens where I lived over the summer, Coney Island where I spent countless weekends with my friends, and the small corner of Manhattan where I go to university and call home. I strained my neck to catch the last glimpse of Brooklyn before the entire city receded before me. Despite my exhaustion from spending the past two straight days packing my room and putting boxes in storage, I started to uncontrollably cry. My brain was so fried that I couldn’t put a finger on what exactly I was feeling. Everything rushed towards me the moment I couldn’t see the outlines of the city anymore. I can now identify that feeling of being one of grief. There are moments of our life that only in retrospect we can identify as an ending of a chapter in our life. This was not one of those moments. I felt this ending with all my being in a lonely plane headed back to California. When I would return to New York, I was not entirely sure but I knew that the city that I stubbornly grew to love and feel allegiant to would be irrevocably changed and so would I.

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COVID-19 Author Image

Student - Columbia University

I am aware that COVID-19 has caused unexpected challenges and obstacles for several individuals across the globe that seem impossible to overcome. I could easily elaborate on my own challenges caused by COVID-19; however, I rather bring about some of the positive impacts I have witnessed as a result of the pandemic. It is very simple to focus in on the chaos and destruction so my hope is to remind us how beautiful humanity can be towards each other despite hardships.

My household’s biggest challenge was finding a way for me to move out of my dorm and fly back home from Columbia. We lost so much money to pre-planned flights for spring break and summer and had to rush to meet Columbia’s 48 hour deadline to move out. I was extremely frustrated and concern for the financial strain this unexpected move would cause on my mother and the financial burden I would once again become at home. However, in the midst of all these negative emotions many inspiring things were happening.

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COVID-19 Author Image

Student - Columbia University

I have Graves’ disease, and I am currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms—coughing, fatigue, shortness of breath, and persistent pain in the chest. Yet my school, or rather the healthcare system itself, refused to test me for COVID-19. When I called Columbia Medical Center and was able to speak to a medical provider, I told them my symptoms and that I have an autoimmune disorder. I was disheartened when they said that testing for COVID-19 is limited to more severe cases and those needing hospitalization, and that I didn’t qualify for it. They told me that those who experience COVID-19 symptoms must assume that they have been exposed and act accordingly by staying at home, getting more rest, and riding out the disease. It almost made me laugh because that’s what I have been doing for nearly two weeks. I wouldn’t reach out if my symptoms haven’t gone worse. I wouldn’t reach out if I weren’t risking the health of my 81-year-old aunt and my other three siblings who live with me. But shouldn’t it be more accessible for the public to navigate healthcare in times of crisis? How come celebrities and officials can get tested for COVID-19, even when some of them don’t have the symptoms? I’m a work-study student, yet my older brother and I are the head of the household. I lost my job because of the pandemic. But to be in the losing side of access to healthcare and potentially to risk your family’s health in the process is something that I did not imagine myself seeing and being with one of the wealthiest and most capable nations in the world. It’s heartbreaking to see the lack of direction, guidance, transparency, and leadership in response to the coronavirus.

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