First-generation student? Never fear!

When you’re the first in your family to go to university, it can be a pretty daunting prospect. As a ‘first-generation’ student, I remember being really worried that this would somehow count against me when I first came to university. What if there were rules I didn’t know? Or what if I struggled to keep up with the workload?

It’s completely normal, if you’re a first-gen student, to feel these anxieties. But what can you do about them?

Ask for help, if you need it

The most important piece of advice is this: don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice.

Whatever your question or problem, York has many different places that can offer support. You can speak to the Advice and Support Centre at the Student’s Union (YUSU), the Graduate Student’s Association (GSA) for postgraduate students, your College or the Student Support Hub. Within your Department, your academic supervisor will be another source of support. And if you ever struggle to find resources for your course, I’ve always found the Library staff to be really helpful.

When you first come to the University, make sure to attend Welcome talks, both by the University and your Department. These often offer advice and information that can help to soothe any anxieties. The University website offers really helpful information for new students – do your research before arriving and this may help to make you feel more prepared. If you look for it, York can offer a lot of support and advice – make the most of it!

Build a strong support system

It’s also really important to build a strong support system for yourself. The best advice I was given was to have two support systems – one at the University, and one outside of the University. The first may consist of housemates, coursemates, your supervisor, any societies you attend, and so on. While the second often consists of family, school friends, and so on. Having these two different support systems is really helpful because it gives you one support system that understands what the University is like and another support system that can give you perspective and help you to see the bigger picture.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your family and friends about how things are going – while they may not be experts on your degree, they know you better than anyone, and so can offer words of advice and encouragement, and celebrate with you when you get a great mark on that project you’ve been working on!

Believe in yourself

One last thing I wish I had been told was to be confident in my abilities. ‘Imposter syndrome’ (i.e. the feeling that you’re a fraud, that you don’t fit in or that you don’t deserve to be there) is very common, and I have felt in the past that I wasn’t clever enough to be here, or that my getting into university was a total fluke! But believe in yourself. If you come to York, you’ll have gotten in on your own merit, not by chance. You worked hard to get here, you deserve to be here as much as anyone else, and you deserve to enjoy your experience!

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I'm an Archaeology PhD student from the UK. I'm interested in how archaeologists can study emotion, and how to improve communication and outreach with the public. I previously did my undergraduate and Masters degrees at York, and I absolutely love the city and University!

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