Daniela began her journey with Fulfillment Fund as a high school student at the UCLA Community School on the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools campus in Koreatown. She joined Fulfillment Fund field trips and worked closely with our College Counselors to get the support she needed to receive financial aid for college. After graduating high school, Daniela decided to stay on the west coast, choosing to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara as a first-generation student in the fall of 2021. While Daniela came to realize that UCSB was not the right fit for her, moving back to Los Angeles and enrolling at Santa Monica City College, she learned valuable life lessons as she continues to pursue her degree. She is set to transfer to UCLA this fall to major in Psychology. Daniela is currently interning at Fulfillment Fund, helping to continue our mission of increasing education equity, and supporting students in their educational aspirations. We asked Daniela about her experience as a first-generation college student choosing to move away from home.
What did it feel like when you first moved away from home to attend college?
Moving away from home for the first time can be thrilling and overwhelming. It is a time when you are excited to become more independent but overwhelmed with the realization that you can no longer depend on your family for things such as rides, food, laundry, medicine, etc. I moved 2 hours away from home, preventing me from returning every weekend because, coming from a low-income background, that was financially impossible. I distinctly recall feeling eager to dorm because I could meet new friends and feel a sense of community, yet I was worried I would not feel as at home as I did with my family. I remember the joy I felt when packing because it made me feel independent. However, when it was time to say goodbye, I felt scared that now I was on my own.
How has moving out to attend college helped you change or grow?
My perspective was changed by my decision to leave home because you don’t truly appreciate the time you spend with your family and having someone to rely on until you no longer live with them. As soon as you are in college, you oversee everything, including when and what to eat, what time to wake up to get to class on time, how to manage your time appropriately, and what supplies to buy for laundry and cleaning. The biggest lesson I learned while moving out of my family home and settling into a new school was to speak up and not expect anyone to do it for me because once in college, you are in charge of your own life.
What would you offer as advice to incoming first-generation college students who will be moving out to attend college?
Any tips I would give incoming students experiencing their first move out from home and onward for college is to enjoy every moment, not let anyone ruin your experience, and speak up if they’re facing any troubles because there is a lot of college support. I would also suggest joining clubs in your first year to meet new people and be involved on campus.
The housing process on the school’s website was straightforward where you put your lifestyle preferences and add roommates. The housing process was not bad in my experience, although I will admit I overpacked. I lived in a triple, and although it was not that bad, it was smaller than I had anticipated, so I had to return home to leave various things. It’s critical only to bring what you need since you risk moving in items you’ll never use. For instance, don’t take a lot of clothes because I had to share closet space so not everything fit. Don’t take a lot of decorations or school supplies because you don’t have much space for them.
I did not have the ideal experience with my roommates my first year just with one of them, so it was hard to live with them because it was uncomfortable. Although it impacted my college experience, I persisted because I understood everything is temporary. Although not everyone experiences this, I will add that when living with other roommates, communication is essential. Communicate about times you plan to study in the room and set rules beforehand like rotating chore duties like taking the trash out and what time you don’t want noise anymore in the room. Setting rules beforehand can help you have a good dorm experience.
Ultimately, while Daniela chose to return to Los Angeles to continue with her college journey for a variety of reasons, she reflected on the experience of moving out as a valuable life lesson and hopes to share her insights with fellow first-generation students considering this option.