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:
- raise awareness of the challenges FGLI students are experiencing during this unprecedented crisis,
- provide a platform for FGLI students to share their stories,
- 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 Northwestern University
College has always been my escape from home. It’s not that I don’t like my family — actually, I love them. But the freedom of living on my own and pursuing my dreams is what drives me. At college, I can focus on what I want to do with my life without the worries that stem from living at home. On campus, I’m not expected to fulfill the responsibilities of looking after my dementia-stricken grandmother or caring for my nonverbal uncle. On campus, I don’t have to share a single laptop with five other people or fret that my Internet will disconnect while I’m writing a paper. And on campus, I have the luxury of being alone in MY quiet room. The value of having a room of one’s own is unknown until such privilege is taken away.
Anyway, it’s been about a week since I’ve returned home to our two-bedroom apartment. My brother and sister—also college students—are back, too. Now, I was surely happy to see them, and a few tears of joy were shed, but I knew that the next few weeks were going to be rough. We’d have to plan a schedule for looking after my grandmother and uncle, figure out when each of us would have access to the laptop, and determine rotations for buying groceries. No way were we going to let our parents, who had both been laid off, go shopping. With pre-existing respiratory issues, they were undeniably a part of the high-risk group. Heaven forbid what would happen to my mental state if either of them fell victim to the virus.
It’s been a lesson in growth. I’m a senior, and if this had happened to me as a first year, I think I would have been too fragile and too broke to endure the way I have. I’m one of the few lucky ones: I’ve been making enough money and saving enough money that this year, I have my own place, food to last for a little while, and I can trust that I’m strong enough to make it through. This was the first year I really got my feet under me, and it’s incredible because I didn’t necessarily need to. Northwestern is one of the few universities that didn’t close everything down, that hasn’t told its students to sink or swim. I know that my advocacy work the last four years is a part of that, but it doesn’t stop the ache in my heart. Being a FGLI student who makes it to these wealthy universities is a perpetual lesson in survivor’s remorse, and teaching yourself how to pull as you climb. All my life I’ve faced crisis. This is the first time I have enough to give back, to provide, whether emotionally or financially. I can be there for those who need it. It’s a heady feeling, because this time I’m the pillar others can lean on, and I’ve never had that before.