Sunday, July 8, 2012

Growing up With Parents Who Never Attended High School or University

Although I was not considered the smartest in my family, there was still this expectation that I might possibly attend college or university. My parents knew that grades played a factor into getting into a good school. That, and a name of a few universities were pretty much the only thing my parents knew about higher education. Since my parents grew up knowing just those things, that's what I mostly knew until I entered high school. I was introduced to the high school and university requirements, met with some advisers, and had meetings with some programs, which taught me so much more than what my parents had ever knew. I started learning about other requirements, such as being more involved through community services, clubs, sports, and student government. I also learned that the personal statement played an important part in the UC applicants decisions. The knowledge that I earned about the application process gave me hope and furthered my interest and led me to believe that I could meet the pressures and doubts of family and others.

About a month before finals, my mom told me that my cousin (who also studies at UC Davis) was taking an exam and asked me why I don't have to study for exams. That was when it hit me. My mom had no idea what I've been through these rough four years. She doesn't even know what I have to do for my classes. My parents don't know that I have to read a book just about every week in university. They don't know that there's barely any homework and that the majority of my grade is based on either papers or exams. But, what they don't know is how much time and energy I spent on trying to get through those rough four years. They won't ever know how it feels to cram in a paper or study for an exam last minute and worry about passing a course.

There are of course some things that my parents have learned about the university as the years passed. My mom learned that I could get kicked out for bad grades during university. She also learned about credits. I didn't teach her about that, but she learned about it somehow. Throughout my time in UC Davis, she would ask me how many units I have and if that was enough. That question was second, as she asked for my grades almost every time she saw me. Other than that, my mom always asked me what my major was although I told her several times. And, she would give me the same type of responses each time whenever I answered her questions. I think it was because she didn't know much about college.

Since I am a first generation Chinese American, there are a lot of things that I have to learn for myself and my parents would not know. Yet, what my parents didn't know didn't scare me, it pressured me. It encouraged me and motivated me to reach for higher education. It's also probably what has sparked my interest in not just education, but travel, food, and culture.

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