The struggles of being first generation

The struggles of being first generation

Jennah Mostafa, Staff Reporter

From birth, your parents remind you daily that you are needed for the family to function. You need to translate documents, help your grandma go to the doctor, and explain medical talk when needed. When you go to school and the teacher asks you what you want to be, you tell her “A doctor,” even though you are too young to know what it means. Mommy always says that doctors make the most money, and that is what matters. 

When you reach your teenage years, you cannot stay after school for tutoring because you have to go home and take care of your younger brother. Then when it is time for college, your father reminds you that you cannot attend a University more than 30 miles from your family home– in case you are needed. This is the reality for some first generation American students. 

First generation American is defined as you being the first American born citizen in your family. In other words, you were born in the US and your parents were not. Being the child of immigrants comes with many stereotypes, some of them exaggerated and some of them unmistakably true. The badgering questions of “What do you want to do when you get older?” followed by disappointed looks if your choice is anything except for  the approved careers your family values  as prestigious enough.

In a survey given to the first generation students of UACHS, 80% of first generation students feel judged for their potential career choices, and 30% of students feel that their career has already been chosen for them. This is what immigrant parents are known for; control. They control everything from appearance to when their children can and cannot go out– despite their age. They control their family image and even what classes you are and are not allowed to take. 

Senior Dersheni Singh feels the control from her immigrant parents in terms of going out.

“I am not allowed to go out with friends. In fact I am not allowed to leave the house at all. I still get treated as if I am a child,” said Singh. 

Oftentimes children of immigrants feel that they are treated like a child when it comes to decisions they want to make, but have contradicting responsibilities. Ninety five percent of first generation students at UACHS have family obligations when returning home from school, with more than 75% taking care of younger or older family members. 

This causes a difficulty with first generation students balancing school and home life. Nothing is worse than having to choose between your future and immediate relationships with family. Burnout is real among the first generation community. Stephanie Ortiz, sophomore at County Prep High School says burnout is a major stressor in her life. 

“I go to school, then come home and watch my niece until seven, and once I finish my house chores by nine, I’m barely conscious enough to even do homework. I stay up until three am sometimes to finish my work,” said Ortiz. 

Additionally, half of first generation UACHS students say they struggle finding a work-home balance. With the stress and expectations of being a child of immigrants, is there hope? Of course there is. Everything is temporary, especially bad times. With hard work and diligence, you can break the generational trauma.