As told to: Dani Fournier
I work a lot. I always have. I worked at my family’s grocery store as a cashier up until college, and now I work at the Math Learning Center pretty much every night. I started out there as a tutor, and now I’ve been promoted to supervisor. I love it. I think it’s so nice to see other people’s reactions when you help them understand some challenge that they might be facing.
Yeah. It’s rewarding, and I’m so grateful to have the employment opportunity, but, at the same time, I work a lot of hours. There’s just not a lot of free time. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have fun, though! Just for example, one of my sisters goes here as well (we’re only 17 months apart), and a few weeks ago, she, my boyfriend and I were walking around campus and on a whim decided to climb into the fountain at the library. It was like 2 AM, I don’t know what we were doing, we were just bored and not tired and we just went on a walk and ended up in the fountain. It’s something I think I’ll always remember.
I’m a first-generation college student and I’m also the oldest sibling in my family. When it came to funding college, like applying for financial aid and stuff, it was very difficult for me. I had to figure out how to fill out the FAFSA application by myself, and now my parents expect me to help my younger siblings fill out theirs. It’s been kind of stressful because I’ve always hated doing that kind of stuff, but I’m the only one in my family who’s ever done it. Because my family owns a grocery store, my parents never had to apply for internships or jobs or anything like that; they just work at the store. My family hasn’t really been there to give me a lot of advice or guidance on how to figure out all the logistics and paperwork of college, so I’ve had to reach out to professors on campus to seek out that information..
I really don’t think I’ve ever been misunderstood here, exactly, but sometimes I feel like I can’t relate to other students as much, you know? They have more of a support system than I do, and I feel like I’ve had to work more…more hours at my job, but also just harder than most people. I have to figure out things that a lot of people seem to know already, that they just take knowing about for granted. It’s hard to explain. I don’t think I have ever been judged or anything, but I also think that given my current work schedule, I don’t have the typical experience because I’m gone almost every night at work, so I think that’s made my college experience a lot different than other people’s.
But I’ve never felt like an outcast or anything like that. One of my biggest concerns coming to MSU was, “Oh my gosh, this campus is so large and there are so many people, I’m only going to be just a number. I’m going to be in giant lectures all the time,” and that really hasn’t been my experience. I’m a math major, and I love my department. They have given me so much support and a lot of great opportunities, employment and otherwise.
With graduation coming up this spring, I’m starting to plan my future. I thought about grad school, for a while, but, ultimately, I really want to stay in this area. I want to have a family of my own someday. I know how much it meant to me to have my grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles all close by when I was growing up, and I would like my eventual kids to someday have that experience as well. I would really hate to leave the state or the area for whatever reason and then not be able to come back because I can’t find a job here. I’ve had cousins go away for work, and then they have kids and start thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I want to come back home,” but they can’t, because they just can’t find a job around here.
I interned at a local company in Lansing last summer, and I did like the work that I was doing–data analysis and mathematical and statistical modeling. They offered me full-time employment, and I’ve decided to take it for now. Grad school could be a really good opportunity, whether I stay in Michigan or decide to go somewhere else, but I need to really think about it more.
Ultimately, sure, I want to feel fulfilled. I don’t just want to go to work because I have to, I want to go to work because I want to. But right now? Honestly, I’m most excited to have a set schedule. I’ve been so, so busy the last few years, and I know that once I’m actually in the workforce, I’ll have a lot more free time.
It’s kind of nice to sit back and picture my future. I see myself having a job that I love, and that I work 7:30 to 4, every day. To have the weekends off and to be able to vacation. To have kids, a husband and dog. I just want that typical American life everyone dreams of, and I feel like I’m finally really getting close to that.
This story originally appeared in Facing College: Diverse Student Voices, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.