I started in community college where I was a work study student working for $4.25/hr in the continuing education office. On Saturdays, I oversaw a flea market in the college parking lot. After earning an Associate of Arts, I transferred to Stanford University. I was living off campus because I was married and my husband worked various jobs to help put me through college. Our joint income return when I started Stanford was $11K so I had lots of grants and loans. I survived on simple food, never bought food on campus really. I worked multiple jobs throughout my time at Stanford, one of them babysitting in exchange for rent reduction.
I never really thought of (being 1G/LI) until I came to Duke and heard the expression. I still think the obstacles faced by today’s 1G/LI students are far starker than the ones I faced. Coming from Denmark, I was outside of the culture and did not really know any labels. Even being an immigrant was very different for me then than what some of todays migrants face. I had no money, but I still had many advantages.
(Being 1G/LI) has definitely made me more sensitive to first-generation, low-income students here at Duke. Sometimes even I feel like I don’t fit in at Duke. When I first walked into the Brodhead Center, I felt this strong sense that this was not my world, because as a college student, my life had been so drastically different. Because of my own experiences, I sometimes have a harder time identifying with the culture at Duke today, and I immediately wonder how low-income students feel on our campus when the facilities differ so greatly from their backgrounds. Coming from a country where society in general is more equal, being a first-generation student of modest means has definitely pushed my journey in the direction of wanting to make the world a better place for all through public policy. I guess that’s how I ended up doing what I do now.