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 Emory University


COVID-19 Author Image

Student - Emory University

When I left for spring break I was excited to get back and finish up the semester, to see my friends, and to enjoy the spring in Atlanta, but to have that all ripped away in the span of an email was devastating. More so was the fact that I and my friends were all evicted and had a week to clean out and store our things for the interim.

Although flights were cheap and plummeted, it still cost me over a thousand in Travel expenses alone. Having to fly during a pandemic was frightening in and of itself, not to mention the personal hell I went through when my flight got canceled due to an outbreak at my airport and having a 26 hr travel day. The costs for storage are astronomical, normally I would have time to find a friend to store them with or I would take courses in the summer. And now, I must buy electronics to adequately attend my lectures I sorely miss.

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COVID-19 Author Image

Student - Emory University

Upon hearing that Emory would be moving to remote learning, I was full of mixed emotions. Mostly, I was simply sad that I would not be able to experience all of the “lasts” that I so fervently worked for during my time in college. I will miss my last choir concert, my honors ceremony, my graduation. How do I receive closure for this large chapter of my life ending? More importantly, was all of this financial and emotional struggle worth it in the end? How will I know? I wish I could say that I have taken away from this some sort of diplomatic epiphany. I do realize that I should be grateful for my education — but should I? Working many jobs through college, fighting with the financial aid office, desperately wishing my parents could contribute to my future. All of this has become a tense dance, and at the end I hoped to bow gracefully to show that I had not missed a step. I had completed what seemed impossible. But, here we are. I will not walk across the stage and take my well-earned bow.

These thoughts have been swirling through my mind for a few weeks now. I wasn’t sure that I would ever let go of this disappointment, anger, and sadness. Then, I found myself moving home and sitting at the table for dinner a few nights ago. After a homecooked meal, my father looked at my brother and me and asked us for money. Now, if you knew my father, you would know that he is a proud man. While he doesn’t contribute to my or my siblings’ higher education, he would do about anything to avoid asking his children for help. The times that we are in have forced his hand. He will lose his health insurance without help from me or my brother to pay the outrageous monthly premium. I first filled with rage — this is unfair! I am already struggling to pay for my own expenses, so how can I be expected to provide for my parents? Quickly the rage faded away, and I felt deep empathy for the situation my parents are in. It provided me with the perspective that while I may be struggling, many others, like my parents, are struggling much more to make ends meet in this economic crisis.

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Joseph Shin

Joseph Shin - Emory University

In the fall semester of 2019, I was actually looking forward to the spring semester. I committed myself to study abroad in the Czech Republic, went through the complex VISA process, then finally landed in Prague with hopes of meeting new friends and adventuring Europe for the first time.

As soon as school started, COVID-19-related tensions really began to rise in Europe. As a low-income student with limited financial support, I had saved up as much as I can for my trips with my work-study job in the fall.

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COVID-19 Author Image

Student - Emory University

My college decision from Emory University changed my life. Not only did I get the opportunity to educate myself and work towards a career and purpose. Although these are tremendous blessings, the reason this changed my life was because I suddenly, overnight, became a person who can experience security and comfort. For the past two years, I sleep in a bed overnight. Before college, I could not say this. I have been homeless for a majority of my life. For the past two years, I have eaten when I was hungry. Before college, I could not say this. I spent countless nights hungry, scared, and desperate. Going to such a prestigious college that has financially supported me has been life changing. Due to the covid-19 putting a hold on school, I am devastated. Again I find myself fighting for my next meal. Especially now, that I have lost both of my jobs, I am scared of how I will help pay my family’s rent. We cannot afford to be homeless at a time like this. All I can pray for is that this situation will be over before it takes even more away from me and so many other people who have been uprooted.

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Justine Annabelle McPherson - Emory University

This Spring, I was meant to study abroad in Seoul. I touched down in South Korea, settled into a group of fellow exchange students immediately and had a blast for 7 days. My program got canceled with the worsening situation and I was on a plane home on day 10. The semester had already reached the midway point so I would have to sit this semester out, but summer school was free. My dad passed in December, so it is really just me and my mum. I was in isolation for 2 weeks and got out just before my 21st birthday. I got a cake but celebrated at home with mum and sans friends, since my school ended up shutting down and sending all students home.

I spend my days trying to work on my book, watching Asian television, and occasionally going to the grocery store or drive through. Mum works from home so we are at little risk. My school gave me a grant for hardship so I am grateful as this is our food fund. I will have to work harder to graduate on time with this canceled semester, but I know where my life lies and His plans are greater than mine. Everyone is looking for hope in this time of solitude and I would encourage them to take a walk through the old testament, even if they arrive with skepticism, the story is one of great interest and they may leave emotionally bolstered.

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