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First Generation with First in the Family

I’m a first generation student. This means that I’m the first person in my family to attend a post-secondary institute. Being a first generation (or first gen) student has had its benefits, but it also had many downfalls for me. That’s where the First in the Family Peer-Mentor Program came in.

It’s a U of T mentorship program in which you’re paired with a upper year mentor in your study field (humanities, life sciences, etc.) that you can meet with one-on-one and in group settings, who also happens to be a first generation student. First in the Family also has frequent Friday events that pertain to academic, social, and leadership skills as well as their annual tri-campus conference called Trailblazers.

Poster for the First in the Family Peer-Mentor Program

First in the Family (or FITF, for short) has been such a positive and amazing opportunity for me! (Source: firstgen.utoronto.ca)

From February 6 to 10, it’s Mentorship Week at U of T! This is a week dedicated to the 60 mentorship programs across all three campuses. (There are also Thank a Mentor Pop Up booths around campus, so thank a mentor and get a free cookie! Also, if you post your #UofTMentorMoment on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll be entered in a draw to win a TTC metropass.)

The reason I mention First in the Family is because I’m not only a first generation student, but also a mentor with the program. I joined First in the Family during my first week at U of T as a mentee and have been with the program ever since, moving my way up from mentee to mentor-in-training to now an official mentor. Mentorship has been an extremely important part of my university journey, and I literally have no idea what university would be like without it.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet and also work with an incredible community of people, who each bring something unique and exciting to the program. Mentorship is significant to me because it creates a community. It has helped me to grow as a person, develop all of my skills, and get involved at U of T. As a peer mentor, I mentor students in their first and second years, and attempt to give them advice about being a U of T student and resources that they may not know about.

Being a first generation student has its unique challenges: for example, when I went to orientation in first year, I was asked what I was going to specialize, major, or minor in. The only problem was that I had no idea what that meant…so I just responded that I was going to study English. I was completely unfamiliar with the university experience, didn’t know that most work is done outside of lecture and/or tutorial time, and that my time management skills were going to go out the window. I had no one to turn to at home or friends that could help me.

Picture of place card setting

During the Trailblazers Conference, we also celebrated the Lunar New Year! (Photo credit: Xijia (Jessica) Peng)

That’s why my mentor was so helpful for me. I was able to learn about the real U of T experience, and gain some skills of my own. Now that I’m a mentor, I try to do my best to make my mentees’ experiences at U of T as problem-free as possible. Being a mentor has been one of my favourite experiences that I’ll take away from my years at university because I love helping others.

Mentorship is an opportunity to connect with alumni, employers, faculty, and other students! The Mentorship Database is a fantastic resource if you’re looking to join a mentorship program. I promise you won’t regret the experience. First in the Family has been such an influential part of my university journey, and I am thankful for the first generation community that it has created on campus.