The city of brotherly love. Also known as_ Queenie’s hometown. _ Penn Admissions

The city of brotherly love. Also known as_ Queenie’s hometown. _ Penn Admissions

The city of brotherly love. Also known as: Queenie’s hometown.

Despite it being three years since I’ve been at Penn, I still remember very vividly my college application process. Many of the high school students I mentor are also first-generation low-income students from Philadelphia and, like myself, knew they wanted to stay in Philadelphia for college. Growing up as an only child, family was (and still is) very important to me. I needed to stay close by to my family while I was in college – but the reason why might not be what you’re thinking.  

I am the daughter of immigrant parents. Throughout high school I helped my parents translate mail, medical records, and basically anything that was in English. My plan was to commute from home, which is literally 15 minutes away, to whatever college I was attending and living at home to take care of any familial duties I had. The unexpected plot twist of this story is that Penn requires all first-year students to live on campus during their first year. My plans had to be adjusted.

I was living a double life. My freshman year, I spent weekdays in class and weekends at home taking care of the translating I missed during the week. Work started piling up at school – and at home – because I wasn’t fully devoted to one location. Is this what it means to have too many eggs in one basket?

While my friends stayed on campus and studied, I spent weekends at home with my family going to doctor’s visits or doing paperwork. I didn’t realize how much work I should’ve been doing at school and found myself cramming for midterms by October. When my first midterm grades came along, I faced the worst grades I ever had in the history of my entire life.

Long story short: I didn’t take failing that midterm very well.  

Not only did I need to explain to my parents that I failed my first set of midterms, but I needed to explain that I needed to focus on school and coming home to piles of letters to translate wasn’t the most relaxing activity. My parent’s didn’t take this conversation well. My mom felt that I was trying to live my own life and rid myself of my familial duties. Rather, it was that college was more than I expected and I wasn’t able to carry all these eggs in my basket at once.

We had to compromise. After a few years in college, I’m proud to say that my family has finally reached a balance of me coming home to take care things and me being at school to take care of my own schoolwork and club activities. This has not only taught me to be more independent but has helped my parents become more self-reliant as well. They try their best to understand documents and would message me whatever they couldn’t figure out and make note of it for a future time. As the first-generation in my family to attend college, college has not only been a journey of self discovery for me but it’s been a journey of learning and growth for my parents as well.

So when you’re applying to colleges or thinking of the next steps in your life, be open to new ideas and experiences – sometimes they might be the best experiences you never knew you needed, but you never know until you try.

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