First-Gen Voices of Harvard College Students and Their Families

The Bureau of Study Counsel collaborated with StoryCorps to record conversations between first-generation-to-college Harvard College juniors and their parents (or other members of their family or community).  The 30 audio clips on this site were selected, transcribed, and translated by the student participants. This project was made possible with funding from Harvard College and a private donor. Read more about this project in The Backstory

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GABBY AGUIRRE & CATHERINE STAY

Robert Stay and Gabby Aguirre

Family educational history

Gabby’s mother, Catherine, shares information with her daughter about her own experiences growing up. 

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Family educational history

Gabby: Daughter
Catherine: Mother

Catherine: I’d have to say ‘cause I was kind of the black sheep and rebel of the family, you know, my, my sister and my brothers were, all of them did very well in school, finished high school, got their education, and I was like, “Woo, I’m playing hooky,” and, um, for me I think it was more because I was just that type of personality, that I didn’t take well to authority or being told what to do. So, for me, going to school was like, “Ehhh, I don’t need to do that,” and I just did my own thing. [Chuckles.]

Gabby: Can you tell me more about what those things were?

Catherine: Just pretty much I preferred to just kind of, I would be driven to school by my older brother – your Uncle Warren – and instead of going to school I would just walk home and go stay home and watch TV or – this was as a teenager not as a little, littler kid now – but once I got to kind of that 7th, 8th grade, 12, 13 year age, to me, I would’ve rather hung out with my friends who were getting into the same trouble I was, and I didn’t really care about school, I just didn’t have it in me at the time.

Gabby: Um, how can you say that that’s changed – or would you say that that’s changed over the years, and why do you think that is?

Catherine: We-well, it’s changed a lot because I, um, I do have some, you know, I have somewhat of a college education so I, I did go to school for a couple of years, I –

Gabby: That was at a community college, right?

Catherine: Yes. I went back to school when um my two oldest, your sisters Missy and Tiffany were babies and really little, got my GED [General Educational Development test], and then started college classes. And I kind of was on and off and on and off with it, but a lot of that was because I was still having, you know, at that time I was just starting to have kids. There’s five of youse, so it was like school and work and then back to school and then giving up school to go back to work ‘cause I really didn’t have a choice at that time. Hence, why I probably should’ve finished my education when I was younger, and I probably would not have struggled so much when you guys were growing up, you know? I wish I would’ve finished, I love, I would love to go back to school.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

 

Escapism: school and learning

Gabby discusses how going to school was an escape from what was happening at home.

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Escapism: school and learning

Gabby: Daughter
Catherine: Mother

Gabby: But that was kind of my form of escapism because for me school and like learning was the only stable thing in my life for a really long time. And even if like the specific school wasn’t stable because I moved to different schools, like, just learning generally was like, my way to escape what was happening at home. ‘Cause, you know, my mom, when we were younger, was working 70 hours a week. It was just, you know us five kids, my older sister raising us half the time. Um, and especially as we got older, my sisters got more into like drinking and, you know, all that kind of rebellious stuff, and I didn’t want that for myself because, you know, even at 13, 14, I saw what that did to other people. We lived in like a homeless shelter when I was 8 or – I think I was 8 or 9, and again when I was 12 or 13, and I just like [sniffles] I just remember seeing what you know alcoholism and drugs and all of that other stuff did to people and I didn’t want my life to be like that [sniffles]. And so, although I had to watch my sisters kind of go down that path, I knew that that’s something I didn’t want, and for me school was the only way to get away from that.

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

“We are making Harvard our own place”

Gabby talks about reaffirming her identity as a Latina and as a first-generation student.

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“We are making Harvard our own place”

Gabby: Daughter
Catherine: Mother

Gabby: My friend Veronica like, she helped me reaffirm my identity as a Latina and as like a first- generation student, and also just the first-generation community here like generally has just been really great. And, you know, before, like I never, like I, it was kind of embarrassing to be a first-generation student, like a, you know, someone whose parents never got a bachelor’s degree ‘cause it’s just like, especially when you’re juxtaposed to other people here whose parents have like, or are professors and are billionaires and have gone to college and went to Harvard, and whose like parents and grand- my, one of my freshman roommates, her father and her grandfather went to Harvard.

Catherine: Really?

Gabby: Yeah, they were both in the marching band, and like for me, at first, like it was, really, like, especially, I just remember freshman convocation – which is where they like have like an opening address to the freshmen – and I didn’t know what to wear and I saw everyone wearing like, way better clothes, and I was, I don’t, like from that day, I didn’t fit – I knew I didn’t fit in here, and I knew that Harvard was not made for me. But, my friend Veronica, and just like the Latinx and the first generation community generally like, they helped me affirm my identity and be proud of it. And like yeah, we know that Harvard wasn’t made for us, but we are making Harvard our own place, and I wouldn’t have that if it wasn’t for my friends and it wasn’t for the like, first-generation or the Latinx community here.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

DAVID CHANG & JANICE ANDERSON

David Chang and Janice Anderson photo

“Do right by them…because they did right by me”

David discusses with his mentor Janice Anderson what his family did for him as a child.

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“Do right by them…because they did right by me”

David:  Friend, Student
Ms. Anderson:  Mentor

David: The first way of looking at the term “first generation” is how it speaks, how it resonates with me on a personal level. So, knowing that my parents came here in ‘94, together in San Diego, and uh, knowing that the reasons why they came here, uh, kind of gives me a sense of expectations. Not because they were pressuring me to, like, attend these prestigious institutions, but more like, I wanted to do right by them, because they’ve done right by me.

Uh, I remember a time in my life, where uh, you know, my mom would always tell me, like, to – it was important to work hard but also important to have dreams, right? You know, not, to think about achieving those dreams, even if they’re implausible in the moment and always to keep working towards those dreams.

So, you know, um, we weren’t necessarily in the best economic situation at the time. And still, right now, we’re sort of struggling a little bit. But uh, back when I was young my mother would take us to the library all the time, she would like – she had these little cardboard boxes that she would uh paste over with wallpaper, and we would load books into them and then bring them home cause we couldn’t afford to buy all those books at the time. So we made like biweekly trips to the library, land we’d load up on these books, and then come home and read them.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

“Give it a shot…why not?”

Ms. Anderson talks about the importance of education in children’s lives.

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“Give it a shot…why not?”

David:  Friend, Student
Ms. Anderson:  Mentor

Ms. Anderson: It was always important to me that the primary focus of education was the student, the young person. And I based my whole career around that – to establish relationships. And the kids today are no different than they were 39 years ago. They respond to an educator that shows interest. And, it’s true, authentic interest. Concern, being there for them, that they know that that person is in their corner and will not – sometimes, I do tend to be a little too maternal and coddle – but, at the same time, to push. To see what they’re capable of, and to encourage, and that’s why for the last nine years when I was the counselor for the IB [International Baccalaureate] program, my whole focus was, no, every child doesn’t need to apply to an Ivy League school, but, who’s to say?  Give them, give it a shot – why not?

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

Vision of education

David shares with Ms. Anderson his observations about how differences in education have affected change in his family.

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Vision of education

David:  Friend, Student
Ms. Anderson:  Mentor

 David: [My mom] would always tell me how, how much hard work was going in from both of us. She would, she made sure, made sure I go to tutoring and, you know, she would always talk about how I shouldn’t worry about, you know, how much the prep was costing or the AP [Advanced Placement] tests were costing or, you know, all these other things because once I get into college, you know, they’ll, they’ll pay for most of my academics.

And she very strongly believed in, you know, this American dream vision of education. She was talking about how, especially in Korea, in her experience, the generational gap between rich students who’d raise their own kids and poor students who raise their kids, and their gap in like education and like intellectual ability and capacity was like widened, you know? And she always thought that when she came to America that one of the things she would do for her children is make sure that they would get a good education – because that was supposed to be, you know, this egalitarian measure – and make sure that we got a good opportunity.

And she, you know – now that I’m at college and now that Grace, my sister, is about to graduate high school in a year – she’s always talking about going back to school and making sure she gets a degree or something, you know. Because that’s, that’s been a dream of hers, and I’m glad that when I got accepted to Harvard, that I could validate some of that – some of her desire to get an education, you know? Because it’s been so long for her, and she’s wanted it for so long, but she’s never had the chance to do it, you know, because of extenuating circumstances.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

ANNA GOMEZ & DENISE GOMEZ

“I am a little fish in a sea of people”

Anna tells her sister Denise about her feeling alone at Harvard.  

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“I am a little fish in a sea of people”

Anna:  Student
Denise: Older Sister

Anna: I think that when I got that email, it was the last school I was waiting to hear from, and I was just excited that I had gotten into other schools, and when that email arrived, I was like, “Oh, wow, like, the little Harvard email came in, and I was like, I bet it’s just my rejection letter,” and when I opened it, like, I couldn’t say that I was excited exactly. I think I was more dumbstruck, of you know, like, this has got to be some type of mistake somehow. I was like, I think I was excited, but I think it was more, a little bit of self-doubt, I think. I think that self-doubt was, I think, unfortunately followed me into my freshman and sophomore years here, so we were talking about how our college experiences differed, but I think we had similarities in terms of our first two years of college being very difficult for us. I think I was definitely academically prepared for Harvard. And, but I don’t think I was necessarily culturally prepared just because Harvard is a university, but it is a university, but it’s very different from other universities as well. So it was the first time that I was surrounded by so much wealth. First time that I felt like other students, especially students who had gone to boarding school or private school, knew what they were doing like straight off the bat, and I just felt so uncomfortable. I didn't know how to have conversations with other people. I felt like they were, I felt alone, just like you felt alone in your first two years, I felt really alone in those two years, and I think I tried to hide that loneliness my first two years by like getting super involved in leadership roles on campus, and I think I used that as, “Oh, I’m involved, and I’m super active on campus,” but I think I never really gave myself the time to really evaluate if I was happy, so I think, yeah, I think those two years were really, really tough.  And that I.  Yeah, I felt alone. So like, and I think I felt guilty, too, because I think, I think no one, no one had the expectation that I would, like, feel such loneliness, I think. I think I was just my own worst enemy because basically my whole identity was around achievement. I had done well in school, and that was kind of how I had formed my identity, and then all of a sudden, I’m surrounded, I’m this little fish in a sea of people, and I was just full of self-doubt and I just didn’t know where I was going. I felt so lost.  So I think my last question would be like, it came to a point into my junior year, in the middle of my fall, that I decided that I just couldn’t any more. I was so unhappy, and I was just struggling so badly, and I told you and Nancy and our parents that I wanted to take a voluntary leave because I really just needed time to like figure out like what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to waste my next two years at Harvard kind of just feeling like I’m just keeping my head above the water and feeling like I’m floating around purposeless.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

The proudest decision

Anna talks about having hidden her feelings from her family and friends.

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The proudest decision

Anna:  Student
Denise: Older Sister

Anna: I think that was definitely, like, probably the best and probably the proudest decision I ever made. And I think the reason why like it was such a shock for you guys is because, like, for some reason I felt like mentioning how much I was struggling I think in school, just how much I felt like out of place, I felt like that was somehow like a burden on you guys, or, like, I didn’t want to disappoint you guys, so I just didn’t mention it. So I would, I would just say all the good things that were happening in my life but kind of would omit the other things that I was kind of worried about. And I like, I knew there are resources on campus, but I didn’t know when or, when or how or what’s a good enough reason to use the resources on campus. So I kind of, you know, I just, I bottled it up inside, and like, I think it was also a shock to my roommates as well ‘cause they consider me like the “mom” of our roommate group, and I think everything was, everything seemed find, and so I think they didn’t expect me to take time off either. But yeah, I, I think at that point, I felt like, I didn’t know what I wanted to, I knew I was still interested in government. I just didn’t know what I wanted from Harvard. I didn't know what I wanted to do after Harvard. So I just really wanted to a) take time off to figure out, okay, Why, Why am I not happy here? What do I need to change? What do I want to do with my next two years? My interests have kind of changed – I don’t want to be a diplomat anymore, but then what? And I can take as many classes as I want, but if I don’t explore other career paths, like, I have no idea where I’m trying to aim to, where I’m trying to go. So, yeah, I took time off during my junior fall, did internships to try to figure that out, which was amazingly useful and really gave me some direction of where I wanted to go. I felt like 2015 was a) the hardest year I’ve ever had but also the year that I had the most growth I think as well.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

Carrying the weight of our American dream

Anna reflects on being the first Latina from Dallas to attend Harvard in decades.

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Carrying the weight of our American dream

Anna:  Student
Denise: Older Sister

Denise: Coming back from that gap year, and, you came back last fall?

Anna: Last fall.  Fall 2015.

Denise: So how, what’s the before, and what was the after?

Anna: I think before was like a girl that felt like she was the admissions mistake. We have a saying here at Harvard of like “sophomore slump,” of, you know, freshman year is all fine and dandy and happy, but then you kind of fall into this slump, you’re just in a rut, and nothing is going right, and I think I never fell out of that rut. I think it was like, I was going into my junior year and, this is about to be a three-year rut. And so I felt like, I don’t know, I felt like I was just deeply unhappy and unsure and felt a lot of pressure just because I felt like I, it’s not just me going to Harvard, but my family, my community. Like I’m the only person from our school district, from Oak Cliff, one of the few Latinas in Dallas to go to Harvard, one of the few people in like several decades from where we come from that has come to Harvard. And I feel like I’m carrying that weight from me, carrying that weight on my shoulders, also carrying the weight of like our American Dream as well. So yeah, I think, I’m going away, I think my first two years before my gap year, I think that’s what I was carrying, and I think after that, I think I realized that while I might be carrying those things, I’m also kind of my own person as well. That I can have my own dreams. That like I don’t have to make all of my decisions based off of, you know, “Oh, I’m kind of representing my community,” and I think it’s finding that independence that, after my gap year and figuring out “Oh, this is, these are what my interests are, not necessarily what I think society or what my community thinks I should be studying or what, where I should be, but this is coming from me and my heart.” So I think I definitely did a 180 during that time.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

WILLIAM GREENLAW & DION GREENLAW

Roots, passion, drive

William’s father, Dion shares with his son what he hopes his son has learned.

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Roots, passion, drive

William:  Son
Dion:  Father

William:  What's something from home you know, like northwest Indiana, or Indiana itself, that you hope I'm not going to forget or let go of?

Dion:  Where you came from. The roots, the, the passion, the drive. The ability to continue to push forward even when there's a wall in front of you.  You learned that you don't always have to knock down that wall, you can climb over that wall.  Or you can go around that wall, or you can tunnel. You don't always have to use force in order to achieve things. You can be a thinker, you can think about how to take that next step. You can think about how to constantly progress and go forward. There's gonna be some bumps, there's gonna be some hardships. Take your time to sit back and regroup and figure out how to still achieve your goal and what you have planned and to surround yourself with people that have a positive attitude and people that they want to go in a direction that you’re wanting to carry them. That's what I'm hoping you carry. Some of the stuff some of the things that was in the city that I grew up in was fantastic. Then some of things were, were in the negative. And even with the negative you look around and say “Well, hey, that's, that’s not that way to go.” That's what I want you carry. To understand that how you get into who you are and where you are you just didn't pop up. You know there was a lot into that soil that made you grow into the person that you are. And that's what makes you you. That's what I want to grow and come back and go forward, and come back and go forward, and continue to grow. From that community.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

“This is about your life”

William describes his experience of getting into and being at Harvard.

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“This is about your life”

William:  Son
Dion:  Father

Dion: Only questions I'm asking is How you doing here?  

William:  Oh, yeah, I’m uh –

Dion:  Which, I can still, when I talk to you, it’s like – whoosh.

William:  Oh, yeah, how am I doing here?  I mean, do want me to like start from when I got here?

Dion:  Well, when you first got here, yeah, that'd be a good start.

William:  Yeah. Uh, huh.  I mean I was pretty excited to get in.  Uh, I mean, I never, I didn’t think that I wasn’t going to get in, and that's that sounds really cocky, really it does, but it’s, it’s not in that fashion, it's that I. I felt that I had been duly prepared by the education system. Had been supported very well and had worked very hard, and so I'm very well qualified to get in. That was my thinking. And so I didn't, I didn’t come here thinking that I was any less than anybody. I didn’t come here you know with a chip on my shoulder and I was just as good you know as my colleagues on campus. And in many ways I exceed them in you know in different facets that I specialize in. When I got here it was little bit of a you know, a little bit of a jump, ‘cause like, you know, I live with a roommate but it's not that big a deal, but it’s that you not there physically, and neither is my mother. And so while things, you know, a lot of things are provided for me, it's like it's not the same as having you physically there to talk to you about things in person. And they were all relegated to phone calls.

Dion:  Yeah.

William:  It became a little difficult because, I needed to make sure I was staying focused on, you know, the present and moving forward while balancing, you know, keeping contact at home. And so –

Dion:  That’s something, I – I cut you off – that’s something that I had to realize. That um, you need that space. I’m not knowing your scheduling. I'm used to being able to call you up, Hey, William, What are you doing?  Where are you going?  What d’you, what d’you have to have? You know, what you need?  What you want?  What you gotta do? How’s your day going? Hey, did you eat today? Did you get some sleep today?

William:  That’s still a question.

Dion:  Hey, you know, did you get a chance to work out? How’s your girlfriend?  Are you dating?  All those things, all those things and, um, forgetting that you have a schedule, and you have your own schedule in life. And, even today, yesterday, actually I realized how schedule-ly orientated you are about scheduling things, about, I gotta do my homework this time, I got a break for this, I gotta break for that. It’s like holy smokes –

William:  Yeah, it’s pretty rigid.

Dion:  Yeah, I was telling Arvella, my wife, your stepmom now, that, man, this man is is, he’s got everything scheduled, and she was telling me you know that’s the way you should do things, and and he's, he's doing it the right way, that she's bringing that to me, telling me that, you know, that's that's what, how you do stuff, and I'm thinkin’, “But I am his dad. I'm above any schedule that there is!” But I have to realize, and I'm getting to realize more and more, this is about your life. Your life is going to be something that you choose for you. And that's the way actually it’s supposed to go. It’s something that me and your mom have put into you that this is about your life, and putting that into you, I forget that, yes, this is about your life, it’s not about, about me feeling warm and cozy about okay, well he's okay, you know. You gotta do your thing.

Will:  You know, I honestly often felt really bad about it. I felt like I was neglecting everybody, and so it was a you know constant struggle, like mentally, to like, you know, discipline myself to focus on the work while –

Dion:  Well, I'm glad you did. I'm glad.  A lot of people wouldn’t make that choice, I've seen a lot of people choose to constantly reach back to everyone and lose focus of what they were going forward to. And you can't reach back and please everyone. And you'll lose focus so you decided to go forward. It’s okay to reach back talk and to someone, hang out, shoot the breeze. But you have to continue to go on. And, yes, it’s a struggle but, you got tough skin. Well, you have you have to deal with some things. And, suck it up. [Laughter.]

 

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

“Lifting as you climb”

William shares his worldview about the importance of giving back to those who have helped you succeed and helping others in the future.

Read the Transcript

“Lifting as you climb”

William:  Son
Dion:  Father

William:  It's I guess as this relates to being like a first generation-college student I, I don't know sometimes I feel like like I'm an anomaly. ‘Cause we just talked about this –

Dion:  Yeah, we did earlier.

William:  Where like, I have a unique situation in which, the current state of America isn’t very supportive of people who don't have illustrious, well-educated, or high-income background. I think high-income backgrounds, but I was good enough to have a supportive family and a good church and a good set of school systems. Both private and public.

Dion:  Well you got that, that's. When you, when we just talked about that, and I was saying that it’s up to the individual.

William:  Exactly.

Dion:  A lot of them are not in a lot of different communities and, and a lot of the communities some people don't realize that, yeah, you can go outside

William:  Exactly, exactly.

Dion:  of the community to get it, they get caught up in just trying to survive in the community that they're in and don't realize that you don't have to be that same person that just walks down the sidewalk and can tell you well, this happened on this corner and this happened on that corner. You can say what's happening around the world.

William:  Exactly.

Dion:  And you need to go out and try to find that.

William:  Right, right.  And you know, I'm not discounting, you know, my own individual ability because I do work very hard. I do my best to work hard in everything I do but I don't wanna, I don’t wanna forget you know all the help that I had because I know like they that legendary gaffe Barack Obama had, you remember that?  So he was like, ”Ahhh you didn’t build that, somebody helped you do it.” And like I realize like that's awful optics, but that’s not what he meant.

Dion:  Yes.

William:  He’s not, he's not, he's not try to take your achievements from you. He’s saying, Yes, your hard work is very important. But it's important to, you know, recognize the work of people who have helped you be in a position where your hard work actually matters. And you know I, I do my best suit to recognize that and so, I don't know, I feel like I know a lot of first-generation students on campus, and –

Dion:  How does that make you feel? Once you, once you realize that that there are so many other first generations here, and so many of ‘em are still trying to continue to push on, do you decide that okay, well, that was first generation that we are gonna build on that and continue to grow or just say okay well we’re first generation then that's the way it’s gonna go?

William:  Oh, yeah, no way, no way.

Dion:  We’re going through something where I work at and we have something that’s going on and we have first generations goin’ through the steel mill area, and it’s very difficult for the first generation, especially young blacks, to go through the steel mill area because of the things that’s going on.  That’s very difficult time, and I’m just wondering, how does, how does that make you feel being first generation.

William:  Yeah, uh, that’s, yeah, I mean, it bugs me that I have like, a set of hardcore advantages above other people sometimes.

Dion:  Okay.

William:  But I mean I wouldn't trade the advantages away, I’m not, I’m not trying to –

Dion:  Good.  You earned ‘em.

William:  Exactly, you know in many ways I have.

William: I mean, it is it just makes me feel like, uh. This line that I heard from Cornel West, remember when I talked to Cornel West? He, he said that it's important as you as you achieve that help other people, like lifting as you climb.

Dion:  Yes.

William:  And so, you know I mean, I do wanna run for office, you know that.

Dion:  Yes, that’s true.

William:  And I mean when I get there the whole purpose is to get there and help people

Dion:  Yeah.

William:  so you know they, can make it, too. I don’t wanna leave anybody behind. [In tears.] That's why I wanna do it.  I just see, I see so many people not being able to make it. And I can. So, so I’m trying to work hard to make sure I can be in a position to help people make it. That’s all I want. I’m not interested in some petty popularity contest. I don’t care if my name’s in lights.

Dion:  Right.

William:  Just, I wanna be in a position to help people. That’s all I want. So it really bothers me. ‘Cause like. Because I know a lot of people, don’t, like they, they hit so many barriers.

Dion:  And they cave in.

Dion:  Exactly, you know, ‘cause it's like. Like, I I'm aware of racism.

Dion:  Of course.

William:  I'm very aware racism, but there are few uh situations in which a very significant barrier has hit me that would change my world view ‘cause I'm not, I haven't been hit with irrational cynicism because of my situation. I haven’t been hit with a group of people who are you know doing their best to stop me and wherever I have been there are have been people helping me.  And I know people don’t have that.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

MARWA HARP & ZEENAT HARP

Difference between here and Lebanon

Marwa’s mom, Zeenat, speaks about her experience going to high school during war in Lebanon.

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Difference between here and Lebanon

Marwa: Daughter
Zeenat: Mother

Marwa: So how did this interfere with, like, your aspirations, like with schooling or with dreams to, like, move? I know you said that you couldn't move because, like, you didn't know which countries would accept you but just, like, living a life in Lebanon, did that stop you from meeting your friends...

Zeenat: Yeah, of course. You know war, of course did that. 

Marwa: Yeah.

Zeenat: Especially going to school. I remember, especially in my middle school or high school, I used, we used to go like a week to school and stay home like for a month or two months. So we don't have enough time to go to school because of war. We don't know when it's going to start. Sometimes we were in the middle of the class and, you know, they start, you know, firing so we have to leave. And our school is far, and we used to go walking to school. It's like 20 or 40 minute walking from our house, and we used to go in the afternoon for high school, so I had to come, like it was middle of the night sometimes. It was a tough time. That's why it was very hard to attend school. So, especially my junior and sophomore and junior year –

Marwa:  Of high school?

Zeenat: Yes. It was very, very tough. Before that, even though it was war, but I don't understand, I was young. During elementary school and middle school, I didn't know a lot because, you know, our parents used to take us, and it was very close to the house. But high school, it was very, very tough attending high school.

Marwa: And that was, you said, sophomore/junior year, that was also the time when you –

Zeenat: I came –

Marwa: – moved to, came to America.

Zeenat: Yeah, I came during my junior year. 

Marwa: It's when you met baba –

Zeenat: Yeah –

Marwa: – and you got married.

Zeenat: Yeah, we got married, and we came here. Then my family decided that time ,"Oh, okay, we have an open, like, a door to come,” then they came as a refugee to Canada.

Marwa: Okay.

Zeenat: So, and we saw the difference, a lot of difference between here and Lebanon. The opportunity to go to school, the life here –

Marwa: Do you think it's the opportunity because there wasn't a war going on or just because the –

Zeenat: Everything. 

Marwa: – education system is very different?

Zeenat: It's everything. I have to admit. It's everything. 

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

Maintaining relationships

Zeenat describes living life now that both of her children live away from home.

Read the Transcript

Maintaining relationships

Marwa: Daughter
Zeenat: Mother

Marwa: Now that I'm here, I just want to know how, like, how that has made you feel. I know because, like, like even back when you were in Lebanon, even in Dearborn where we live, like people don't normally leave their family for college. They just, they leave their home once they're married basically.

Zeenat: Yeah, it was very tough for them to let their kids go outside the, yeah it is, you know, it is hard. Until now, everybody asks me, "Oh, how you let your kids, both of them, away from home?"

Marwa: Yeah –

Zeenat: But you know, it was hard for me. It was very hard. Even for every mom, it's not only for me. But you know, I don't have, I don't want to be selfish, because for me, I want the best for my kids. You know that. I told you. And I'm the one who encouraged you. It is tough, you know how much the first week you came here –

Marwa: Yeah –

Zeenat: Baba told you?

Marwa: No –

Zeenat: I was crying every single night. 

Marwa: Aww –

Zeenat: Yeah, every single night, sit and cry, cry. Then I said, actually "Ok, I'll get used to it, I'll get used to it, it's better for her."

Marwa: Yeah. I mean I get lonely and sad sometimes too without you guys but, like –

Zeenat: I'm happy for this technology now –

Marwa: Yeah, yeah –

Zeenat: We can, you know, every night –

Marwa: We can talk every night and stuff –

Zeenat: Yeah.

Marwa: But it is tough. And I think what we're doing, this whole, like, me being away but still maintaining, like, family relationships and maintaining like a strong connection to my community, going back, and when I go back to Dearborn I stay, like, I do community service and then go back to all the organizations. I think that's like a good example just for the other people in our community. I think that we live in a time, just because like everybody, like our community members, a lot of them still have that mentality where the girl can’t leave the home unless she's married. And I think, now that there's students who are doing that, who are, like, leaving, furthering their education, getting jobs, then settling down, it’s something really important. 

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

Pushing the limits and meeting expectations

Marwa discusses the sense of freedom and independence she experienced in attending Harvard.

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Pushing the limits and meeting expectations

Marwa: Daughter
Zeenat: Mother

Marwa: I just, I love that it started off as, I just think it's funny that at first it was hard for me to go down the street to the store, then it was hard for me, then like, you loosened up on that, and then I was allowed to leave the city and go to somewhere further away, and then I was allowed to come to a different state, and then after that I was allowed to go to a different country by myself and just every year I get this, like, more sense of, this greater sense of freedom and independence, and it's gradually built from like nothing to like –

Zeenat: Yeah.

Marwa: – something super large and I, I think that's really interesting and cool.

Zeenat: So you're not regretting coming here?

Marwa: I don't regret, no, I don't regret it. I do, like during stressful periods of school and whatnot I wish I was at home just because, like, I need people. It's sometimes hard, I forget about my health and, like, myself and sometimes, like, everybody else around you is concerned with what they're doing so there's no one there to care for you. But at home I know if I'm letting myself get stressed out that you guys would be there to support me...

Zeenat: Yeah, but –

Marwa:  – or like come and provide me with like tea or like my favorite foods that you don't get here. 

Zeenat: But I try my best to tell you to call, text me, so we can talk –

Marwa:  Yeah we still do that long distance-ly –

Zeenat:  – Yeah, even when we're apart

Marwa: – and you always give me that hope. Yeah. I've realized that, like, I've come into college with a different, like a different starting point from what a lot of people here have come with. A lot of people here have like went to, gone to private schools, had all these like prep courses and whatnot that I don’t have and I thought that on my first exam I should be doing as high as everybody else is doing until I remember calling you and you saying like "Just do your best. It doesn't matter if it's not what everybody else is doing. Just do what you know is best and then leave the rest to God."

Zeenat: Yeah, these are my words.

Marwa:  And that has become my mantra.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

DOMENICA MERINO & CLAUDIA OLALLA-MERINO

“Mis mejores deseos para ti ahi”

 

Claudia comparte con su hija Domenica el hecho de que ella siempre ha querido lo mejor para ella y habla de porque y de que manera se lo ha proporcionado.

Claudia shares with her daughter Domenica that she always wanted what was best for her daughter and how and why she provided that for her.

Read the Transcript in Spanish

“Mis mejores deseos para ti ahi”

Domenica: Hija/ Daughter
Claudia: Madre/Mother

Claudia: Yo no quería que mis hijos se sientan menos, y aprendí que en Quito, tu nivel social hacia mucha diferencia porque cuando yo me iba a pedir trabajo, en los mismos bancos, las personas de recursos humanos me decían que si yo no era graduada de un colegio de ahí de Quito, esencialmente Católico porque las escuelas privadas lo más son, las más famosas en ese tiempo eran  las escuelas Católicas, entonces que no. Ni siquiera iban a recibir mi carpeta. Ni siquiera iban a ver mi resume. Y entonces para mí fue terrible porque ni siquiera iban a ver quién era yo solamente porque no era graduada de tal o cual parte. Tonces no. A mí es como cuando que me dicen no, me hace más fuerte. Es como que, “Okay, yo te voy a demostrar que sí.” Y por eso, todo lo que he hecho por ti, Domenica, es para que tú no pases eso, para que tú no sientas eso. Por eso te conseguí el mejor colegio, la mejor escuela, fuiste a la mejor guardería en Ecuador. Siempre lo mejor, siempre lo mejor para ti allá.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

Read the Transcript in English

"Always the best for you there"

Domenica: Daughter/ Hija
Claudia: Mother/ Madre

Claudia: I didn’t want my children to feel less than, and I had learned in Quito [the capital city] that your social class made a big difference when I would go looking for a job. At the banks, the personnel of human resources would tell me that if I hadn’t graduated from a high school in Quito, essentially a Catholic education since at the time the most famous private schools were Catholic, well then, no. They wouldn’t even receive my CV. They wouldn’t even look at my resume. And it was terrible for me because they wouldn’t even look into who I was solely because I hadn’t graduated from such and such place. So no. For me, when they tell me no, it makes me stronger. It’s like, “Okay, I’m going to show you.” And for that reason, everything I have done for you, Domenica, is so that you never have to go through that, so you never have to feel like that. For that reason I found you the best high school, the best elementary school, in Ecuador you went to the best kindergarten. Always the best, always the best for you there. 

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

“Tu puedes lograrlo todo"

Claudia discute con Domenica las diferencias que existen entre la Universidad en el Ecuador y los Estados Unidos.

Claudia discusses with Domenica the differences between college in Ecuador and the U.S.

Read the Transcript in Spanish

“Tu puedes lograrlo todo”

Domenica: Hija/ Daughter
Claudia: Madre/Mother

Claudia: Siempre he pensado que la Dome puede todo. ¿Si o no, Domenica? Te he enseñado a que creas que siempre puedes todo. Te acuerdas que te decía en el high school, “Yo hago los papeles y tú has lo que tienes que hacer, Domenica.” Que era estudiar, y estar nice, e ir a todas las cosas a las que te metia. Y dar lo mejor, en todas las actividades que yo te metía. Y aprender, porque si fue un susto poder aprender, no tenía idea de cómo ingresar aca el college. No es como Ecuador que solamente vas y te matriculas, aquí tienes que tener toda una aplication, y activities, y clubs, y, eh, GPA, SATs. Y en Ecuador en mi tiempo lo unico que hacías era ir, lleñar tu solicitud, dejar, y ya. Y si tenías dinero ibas a una privada que igual, solo pagabas la matricula y ya estabas. No tenias que haber pertenesido a ningún club o labor social, asi nada.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

Read the Transcript in English

“You could do it all”

Domenica: Daughter/ Hija
Claudia: Mother/ Madre

Claudia: I have always thought that Domenica could do it all, haven’t I, Domenica? I’ve taught you to believe that you could do it all. Remember that I would tell you in high school, “I’ll take care of the paperwork, and you do what you have to do, Domenica.” Which was to study, and be nice, and go to all of the things I signed you up for. And give your best, in everything I put you in. And to learn, because it was a shock to have to learn, I had no idea how one got into college. It’s not like Ecuador where one only goes and enrolls. Here, you have to have a whole application, and activities, and clubs, and, uhm, GPA, SATs. And in Ecuador, back in my days, the only thing you had to do was go, fill out the application, leave it there, and that was that. And if you had money you went to a private college that, in the same way, you only needed to pay to enroll and that was that. You didn’t have to be participate in clubs or do any community service. Nothing. 

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

 

"¡Y aqui estas!"

Claudia habla de las adversidades que Domenica y ella han enfrentado al tener que aprender como funciona un sistema universitario distinto.

Claudia talks about the adversities she and Domenica faced in learning about a new college system.

Read the Transcript in Spanish

"¡Y aqui estas!"

Domenica: Hija/ Daughter
Claudia: Madre/Mother

Claudia: Entonces tuve que aprender todo eso, tuve que aprender que tenías que hacer, y por eso estuviste en una grand high school. Donde hubo gente, donde hubieron personas que no fueron egoístas y cuando yo preguntaba, ellos me daban una respuesta. Y siempre me a gustado conocer. Y fueron horas y horas al frente de Google buscando que era, que se necesitaba, que universidades habían para ayudarte porque tu no eres una ciudadana Americana si no una Ecuatoriana. Para los ciudadanos Americanos, igual es fácil, y hay hasta ayuda económica, pero tú solo tenías como seis universidades que ayudan a los estudiantes internacionales, porque tú eras – entonces yo tenía que saber, porque ni siquiera el college counselor de tu high school sabía. Él no sabía, ella no sabía, que no iban a poder ayudarte. Si tú eras como una de las mejores alumnas de tu escuela. Entonces todo eso me toco conseguir a mí, como mama de Domenica. Conseguir toda esa información. Y por eso, por eso sabía que solamente podías ir a estas escuelas super importantes. Y yo nunca pensé que no podías ir. Ni siquiera sabia el tanto por ciento de aceptación, el seis por ciento, y yo solo rezaba por todos lados. Rezaba en mi grupo de Biblia, rezaba en Misa. En todas partes para que Domenica entre. ¡Y vez, estas aquí! Y siento que vale la pena, siempre, Domenica, contigo. Todos los esfuerzos. De nada me arrepiento contigo. De todas las madrugadas, de todos los fríos, de todas las idas en el viento en Oregon para que vayas al community center para que sigas cartooning o swimming. De nada me arrepiento porque tú también pusiste tu parte, así por eso Dios te bendijo y estas aquí.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

Read the Transcript in English

“Here you are!”

Domenica: Daughter/ Hija
Claudia: Mother/ Madre

Claudia: And so I had to learn everything. I had to learn what you had to do. That’s why you were in a great high school, where there were people, where there were people who weren’t selfish, and when I asked, they would give me answers. And I have always liked to learn. And it took hours and hours in front of Google searching what [the college application] was, what was needed, what colleges were there to help you because you weren’t a U.S. citizen but rather Ecuadorian. For U.S. citizens, it’s easier, there’s even financial aid. But for you there were only around six universities that would help international students, because you were – so I had to figure it all out, because not even your high school college counselor knew. He didn’t know, she didn’t know, that no one would be able to offer you financial aid. And you were one of the best students at your school. And so I had to figure it all out by myself, as Domenica’s mom. I had to find all of that information. And because of that, I knew that you could only go to really prestigious schools. And I never thought you couldn’t do it. I didn’t even know what the acceptance rates were, six percent, I only prayed everywhere I went. I prayed with my Bible group, I prayed during Mass. Everywhere, so Domenica would be accepted. And you see, here you are! And it feels like it is all worth it, all of it, Domenica, with you. All of our struggle. I don’t regret anything with you. None of the early mornings, none of the cold days, none of the windy trips in Oregon that we had to make to get to the community center so you could take cartooning or swimming. I don’t regret anything because you also put in your part, that’s why God blessed you and you are here.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

ENRIQUE RAMIREZ, JR. & ENRIQUE RAMIREZ, SR.

“Tenemos corazones felices"

Enrique, Jr platica con su padre, Enrique Sr, de su (Sr) crecimiento en México.

Enrique Jr. speaks with his father about his father, Enrique Sr.’s, experience of growing up in Mexico.

Read the Transcript in Spanish

“Tenemos corazones felices”

Enrique Jr: Hijo/ Son
Enrique Sr.: Padre/ Father

Enrique Jr: ¿Cuando estabas creciendo, que fueron los las creencias de tu familia o de tu comunidad pertenecientes a la educación o sobre la educación?

Enrique Sr: Bueno pues, yo creo que es muy común allá que las personas, los padres, en México no han tenido tanta educación porque realmente no hay tantas oportunidades, ellos tuvieron que aprender a trabajar desde muy jóvenes. Entonces cuando tienen, ellos no saben cómo apoyar a sus hijos para que continúen una buena educación, ellos nada más saben que quisieran que sus hijos tengan muy buenos estudios pero no proveen el apoyo necesario para que uno continúe en esas escuelas. Ellos creen que vaya uno solo y que por su propio esfuerzo estudios, y no es así. Un estudiante que se va a estudiar necesita todo el apoyo posible. Estoy agradecido con Dios y este país y su apoyo a ti que nosotros no pudimos brindar para que continues tus estudios. Te ha sido conseguido, por Dios nuestro señor, y por las becas, y por esta escuela hermosa y preciosa que te apoya y te da comida, y casa, y te da el trabajo para que tu te puedas comprar tus cosas, pues porque no tenemos dinero para mandarte. Estamos felices de que pudiste conseguir esta beca, aunque tengamos trabajos humildes y pocos recursos en casa, tenemos el corazón muy alto, y estamos muy contentos de que aproveches esta oportunidad.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

Read the Transcript in English

“We have happy hearts”

Enrique Jr: Hijo
Enrique Sr.: Padre

Enrique Jr: When you were growing up, what were the beliefs of your family or of your community pertaining to education?

Enrique Sr: Well, I think that is is common for people in Mexico, people who are parents, to not have had a lot of education because there are not a lot of opportunities. Most parents had to learn to begin working from an early age. Because of this, once they have children, they do not know how to support them so that they can continue their education. They only know that they do want their child to continue studying, but they are not able to provide the necessary support. They believe that to be successful, one has to work hard, and one has to figure out how to be successful on their own, but that does not work. A student needs all the support his parents can provide. I am grateful to God and to this country for giving you the support that we were not able to provide so you could continue your studies. It has all been given to you by God and by scholarships, and by this beautiful school that supports you and gives you food, and shelter, and gives you work so you can buy things for yourself, because we don’t have money to send you. We are happy that you could obtain the scholarship even though we have humble jobs and little resources at home, we have happy hearts, and we are happy that you have these opportunities.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

“La sociedad esta una gran necesidad de buena gente”

Enrique Sr explica que el cree que la gente buena puede traer acabo cambio en el mundo.

Enrique Sr. shares his belief that good people can change the world.

Read the Transcript in Spanish

“La sociedad esta una gran necesidad de buena gente”

Enrique Jr: Hijo/ Son
Enrique Sr.: Padre/ Father

Enrique Jr: ¿Qué es algo de nuestra casa, o de nuestra comunidad o cultura, que te acuerdas de que tú esperas que nunca me olvidaré o que deje? Se lo es una pregunta muy dificil.

Enrique Sr: No, es hermosa. Yo se que lo que te ha tomado para que te llegues a ser un buen elemento en esta sociedad. Tan necesarios son los buenos jóvenes en este país y en este mundo porque la cosa, pues muchos podemos ver, que no va bien siempre. Pero habiendo más gente buena, creo que va a estar mejor. Estoy contento de que tú y tus hermanos sean buenas personas que yo veo que estén en este mundo para que puedan ayudar. Yo quiero que esté mismo ambiente y sistema en el que ustedes han crecido y han llegado a ser buenas personas en nuestra sociedad, quiero que tú y tus hermanos sean parte de este sistema y continúan la formación de otros niños que ni siquiera son de su familia o de su color de piel o de su raza y que ustedes los puedan orientar y ayudar.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

Read the Transcript in English

 “Society is in deep need of good people”

Enrique Jr: Son
Enrique Sr.: Father

Enrique Jr: What is something about home, or about our community or culture, that you hope that I never forget or let go. This is a hard question.

Enrique Sr: No, it’s a beautiful question. I know how hard you have worked to become a good contribution to society. Society is in a deep need for good young people, in this country and in this world. We can all tell that things aren’t always great out in the world. But with good people, I believe that the world can become a better place. I am happy that you and your siblings are good people, and that y’all look for ways to improve the world. I want you to, via the same environment and system that you grew up in, to become a good person, to help other children to grow up and become good people, regardless of whether the children are part of your family or not, regardless of their skin color, or race, you should help orient them.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

Recursos

Enrique Jr describe los recursos que tiene disponible en Harvard.

Enrique Jr. discusses his access to resources at Harvard.

Read the Transcript in Spanish

Recursos

Enrique Jr: Hijo/ Son
Enrique Sr.: Padre/ Fahter

Enrique Jr: Yo tengo el problema opuesto de que tu tuviste creciendo, como están todos tus libros aquí en este cuarto yo seguramente tengo acceso a ellos pero también acceso a la biblioteca privada más grande del mundo y puedo sacar cualquier libro. Tenemos también el internet que tiene tanta información, es difícil de saber. Es completamente una diferente situación pero si  hubo muchos recursos en high school, pero aquí en Harvard es mejor y hay hasta más. Cómo estaba diciendo más temprano, nunca tuve pero aqui hasta tengo el seguro dental, tienes aquí hasta seguro médico y gente que está lista para aconsejarte. Es una vida muy diferente.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

Read the Transcript in English

Resources 

Enrique Jr: Son/ Hijo
Enrique Sr.: Father/ Padre

Enrique Jr: I have the opposite problem you had growing up, even looking at these books in this room, I could surely somehow find a way of borrowing one of them, I also have access to the largest private library in the world, and I can check out any book. Not to mention, I also have internet access, which also gives me access to an incomprehensibly large amount of information. I have a completely different situation than you had. I also had many resources in high school, but at Harvard I have many more, it’s better here. Like I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t until I came here that I had even things like dental insurance and even health insurance. There are so many people here ready to help you. This is a very different life.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

SELENA RINCÓN & NORMA VARGAS

“Todos esperan mucho de mi"

Norma habla con su hija Selena acerca de las presiones de ser la primera en su familia en asistir a la universidad.

Norma speaks with her daughter Selena about the pressures of being the first in her family to attend college.

Read the Transcript in Spanish

“Todos esperan mucho de mi"

Selena: Hija/ Daughter
Norma: Madre/Mother

Norma: Tu como la primera que vas a estudiar de la universidad de la casa, este, sientes bonito o sientes el peso muy grande porque como tu sabes, no nada mas yo, no nada mas tus tíos. Tu sabes que todos, todos tus maestros de la high school, tus padrinos, los vecinos. Tu sabes tanta gente que nosotros conocemos que esperan tanto de ti. Que siempre quieren hablar nada mas de ti y saber de ti y que ellos están esperando, tu sabes que todos ellos están esperando que tu seas como la niña perfecta porque viniste a Harvard. ¿Tu lo sientes como un peso muy grande? ¿O como te sientes por eso?

Selena: A veces si. Es mas difícil cuando estoy en casa. Cuando estoy en la universidad es bien fácil olvidarme de todo eso y enfocarme en mi misma y no se siente tan fuerte. A veces si pienso en que, cuando estoy en la universidad, es mas fácil pensar en las cosas bonitas. Pensar en que al estudiar estoy ofreciendo una vida mejor para mi familia. Pero cuando llego a la casa si es mas difícil porque es cuando todos están preguntando que estoy haciendo con mi escuela, que estoy haciendo con mi futuro. A veces cuando todos me dicen, “No se te olvide que tienes que cuidar de tu mama algún dia.” Digo, “Pos obvio que lo voy a hacer. No necesito que me estén recordando. Eso ya es por hecho.” ¿Pero yo creo que era mas difícil en la high school cuando todavía no había logrado tantas cosas porque era como que, como les puedo enseñar a todos que si soy capas de hacerlo si no lo he hecho? Pero ahora que ya he logrado estar aquí y he logrado otras cosas, ya puedo decir, “ok. Todos esperan mucho de mi pero yo ya les he enseñado que si soy capas de hacerlo.” Pero también yo creo que tiene mucho que ver que así me creaste tu. Nunca me dijiste “oh, tienes que ser de esta manera porque los demás lo esperan de ti.” Simplemente me dijiste, “tu tienes que ser de esta manera.” Entonces soy de esta manera y no siento que los demás diciéndome, “Se niña buena. Se buena estudiante.” Cosas así son expectaciones mías. Simplemente yo soy así. En cambio, si yo hubiera crecido de otra manera, tener gente todo el tiempo diciéndome que esperan de mi hubiera sido mas difícil.  

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

Read the Transcript in English

“Everyone expects so much from me"

Selena: Daughter/ Hija
Norma: Mother/ Madre

Norma: You, as the first person from home to go to college, do you feel nice, or do you feel the weight too large because, you know, not only me or your uncles? You know that everyone, all of your high school teachers, your godparents, the neighbors, you know, so many people that we know expect so much from you. They always only want to talk about you, to know about you and that they’re just waiting, all of them expect that you will be the perfect girl because you came to Harvard. Do you feel a large weight because of it, or how do you feel?

Selena: Sometimes, I do. It’s harder when I’m home. When I’m at the university, it’s so easy to forget about all of that and to focus on myself, and it doesn’t feel as strong. Sometimes, I do think of, when I’m at the university, it’s easier to think about the nice feelings. To think that by studying I’m achieving a better life for my family. But when I get home it’s harder, because it’s when everyone starts to ask what I’m doing with school and what I’m doing with my future. Sometimes, when people tell me, “Don’t forget that you have to take care of your mother one day,” I say, “Obviously I will do it. I don’t need you to remind me. It’s already a fact.” But I think that it was harder in high school when I still hadn’t achieved many things because how can I prove to people that I am capable of doing these things if I haven’t done them? Now that I’m able to be here, and I have achieved other things, I can say, “Everyone expects so much from me, but I’ve proven to them that I’m capable of doing it.” I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that that’s how you raised me. You never told me, “Oh, you have to be this type of person because other people expect it of you.” You just simply told me, “This is the type of person you have to be.” So I am who I am, and I don’t feel like others telling me, “Be a good girl. Be a good student.” Things like that are my own expectations. I’m simply that way. On the other hand, if I had been raised in a different way, having people always telling me what they expect of me would have been more difficult to deal with.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

“No es una pregunta acerca de si o no quiero aprenderlo"

Selena habla con su madre Norma acerca de cómo salir adelante en la universidad por su propia cuenta.

Selena speaks with her mother, Norma, about getting through college on her own.

Read the Transcript in Spanish

“No es una pregunta acerca de si o no quiero aprenderlo"

Selena: Hija/ Daughter
Norma: Madre/Mother

Norma: Como tu sientes que, bueno pues, la escuela desde que estas chica, siempre, aunque no supiera yo como ayudarte a estudiar porque no estudie, siempre buscábamos la manera de preguntarle a las demás personas que nos guiaran: A donde ir. Como hacerle. Donde buscar. Pero ahora que estas aquí, que tu ya sabes más que todos nosotros y que no puedes tener un apoyo de la familia porque no sabemos ya nada. Es difícil para ti, ya estando aquí, tener que hacerlo tu sola?

Selena: Si, es difícil. Era más difícil, mi primer año, cuando llegue y me di cuenta que, en verdad, no tenia apoyo. No porque no quisieran pero porque no podían. Pero a veces es bien difícil ver mis amigas y ver como, cualquier cosa, cualquier pregunta, le llaman a sus papas. Cuando los maestros dicen, “oh, tus papas pueden chequear tus escritos antes de que los entregues.” Digo, “pos mi mamá no puede chequear mi escrito.” O cuando mis amigas dicen que ellas no saben hacer papelería financiera o ellas no saben comprar sus propios boletos de avión y digo, “Wow. Osea, esas son cosas que obvio yo tengo que saber que hacer. No es cuestión de que si quiero o no, las tengo que hacer yo.” Ahorita, esta haciendo difícil porque no tengo un ejemplo de que hacer con mi futuro. Porque tengo amigas que ellas saben más o menos porque lo hizo sus papas, lo hizo sus vecinos, sus amigos. Y yo no tengo a nadie. Ni vecinos, ni amigos. Nadie que en verdad me diga, “Oh, sabes que el siguiente paso es esto.” Pero a la misma vez, no se me hace tan difícil porque me siento orgullosa. Porque he logrado todo esto aunque tenga familia que no sepa como guiarme o que tengo una familia que me apoya aunque no sepa lo que estoy haciendo. Y no cualquier persona puede decir que tiene una familia que la apoya tanto sin saber lo que esta pasando. También, porque yo digo, “Si yo he logrado esto sin tener el mismo tipo de guía que muchas de mis amigas han tenido, es por algo, y eso es algo de lo cual yo tengo que estar orgullosa.”

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

Read the Transcript in English

"It’s not a question about whether or not I want to learn it"

Selena: Daughter/ Hija
Norma: Mother/ Madre

Norma: How did you feel, well, since you were younger, always, even when I didn’t know how to help you study, because I didn’t study, we always found other people who could help you and show you how to do it, where to look. But now that you are here, that you know more than any of us and that you can’t have support from the family because we don’t know how, is it difficult for you to have to do everything alone?

Selena: Yes, it’s difficult. It was more difficult my first year when I got here and realized I didn’t have support not because you didn’t want to but because you couldn’t. Sometimes, it’s really difficult to see my friends and see how, for anything or any question, they call their parents. When teachers say, “Oh, your parents can read through your essay before you turn it in.” Well, I say, “My mom can’t read my essay.” Or when my friends say they don’t know how to do their financial aid, or buy their own flight tickets, I think, “Wow, that’s obviously something I need to know how to do. It’s not a question about whether or not I want to learn it, I have to.” Right now, it’s difficult because I don’t have an example of what to do with my future because I have friends who know a bit because of their parents, their neighbors, their friends. I don’t have anyone. I don’t have neighbors or friends or anyone who can really tell me, “Oh, the next step is this.” But at the same time, I don’t feel like it’s too difficult because I feel proud because I have achieved all of this without a family who knows how to guide me. Or that I have a family who could support me even though they don’t understand what I’m doing, and not many people can say that they have a family who supports them so much even though they don’t understand what’s going on. I say to myself, “If I have achieved all of this without having the same type of guide that a lot of my friends have had, it’s for a reason.” It’s something that I should be proud of.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

“…Algún día tu me dijiste…"

Selena y su madre Norma hablan sobre los sueños de Selena de ir a la universidad.

Selena and her mother, Norma, talk about Selena’s dreams of going to college.

Read the Transcript in Spanish

“…Algún día tu me dijiste…"

Selena: Hija/ Daughter
Norma: Madre/Mother

Selena: ¿Como piensas que mi vida va a ser diferente que la tuya?

Norma: Pues yo pienso que va a ser 100% diferente porque, para mi, la base del éxito esta en el estudio porque tienes mas oportunidades y puedes realizar el trabajo en el que tu te sientas contenta y que puedas, tanto económicamente como emocionalmente, estar mejor.

Selena: ¿Y cuando yo empecé a platicar contigo sobre ir a la universidad, cuando yo estaba mas chica. Que es lo que pensabas?

Norma: Pues me daba emoción pero también me daba miedo porque como no soy de este país realmente no sabia, no tenia ni idea como era la escuela aquí o que era la escuela. Y luego tu bien chiquita, desde que estabas como en tercer año, me dijiste un día que cuando fueras grande ibas a ir a Harvard y yo ni sabia que era Harvard. Y yo te dije, “Si mija. Cuando tu seas grande tu vas a ir a Harvard. Vas a ver que si. Si vas a ir.” Pero yo no tenia ni idea que era Harvard y si me daba, me asustaba un poco porque como yo no tenia ni idea como eran las cosas aquí. No sabia ni como íbamos a hacer todo.

Selena: ¿Y cuando te dije que estaba entre la universidad en Nueva York en Abu Dhabi y la universidad de Harvard, que pensaste?

Norma: Bueno, pues yo no sabia ni que decirte ni que aconsejarte porque, la verdad, los dos lugares me daban miedo porque te ibas a ir sola y no sabia donde estaba mas peligroso y que te pudiera pasar algo malo pero me daba gusto que pudieras ir a la universidad. Y me asustaba mucho que como íbamos a pagar tanto dinero y como te iba a poder ayudar si no tenia dinero.

Selena: ¿Y cuando me trajiste para la primera semana, mi freshman year, que es lo que mas miedo te daba?

Norma: Dejarte sola en esta ciudad y que no sabia como le ibas a hacer ni como le íbamos a hacer?

Selena: ¿Y que tal, que es lo que mas esperanzas te daba?

Norma: Pues sabia que aquí ibas a poder realizar todos los sueños que tu querías y eso era lo mas importante.

Selena: ¿Cuales son algunos de tus deseos para mi futuro?

Norma:  Pues, yo primero quiero que estudies lo que a ti te gusta porque se que eso te va a dar una mejor vida para ti, en tu futuro, en todos los aspectos porque vas a estar feliz haciendo lo que tu quieres.

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

Read the Transcript in English

“...You told me one day..."

Selena: Daughter/ Hija
Norma: Mother/ Madre

Selena: How do you think my life will be different from yours?

Norma: Well, I think it will be 100% different because, for me, the foundation for success is based on education because you have more opportunities and you can follow whatever career you feel happy in and that you can, economically and emotionally, be better.

Selena: When I started to talk to you about going to the university, when I was younger, what did you think?

Norma: Well, I felt excited, but I also felt scared because, since I’m not from this country, I didn’t really know, I had no idea how the process worked here or what was university. And then when you were very little, since third grade, you told me one day that when you were older you were going to go to Harvard, and I didn’t even know what Harvard was, but I said, “Yes, baby. When you are big, you are going to go to Harvard. You’ll see. You will go.” But I had no idea what Harvard was and I did feel, I was scared a bit because since I had no idea how things worked here, I didn’t know how we were going to do everything.

Selena: And when I told you that I was deciding between New York University Abu Dhabi and Harvard University, what did you think?

Norma: I didn’t know what to tell you or how to give you advice, because, honestly, both places scared me because you were going to leave by yourself, and I didn’t know which was more dangerous, and that something bad could happen to you, but I was happy that you were going to college. And I was scared a lot about how we were going to pay so much money and how I could help you if I don’t have money.

Selena: When you dropped me off during the first week, my freshman year, what were you most scared of?

Norma: To leave you alone here and that I didn’t know how you were going to do it and how we were going to do it.

Selena: And what was your greatest hope at that time?

Norma: I knew that you would be able to succeed in all of your dreams and that’s the most important thing for me.

Selena: What are some of your hopes for my future?

Norma: First, I want you to study whatever you love because I know that will give you a better life for you, a better future in every aspect because you will be happy doing what you love.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

NU XIONG & SHOUA HER

Nu Xiong and Shoua Her photo

Starting with the basics

Shoua discusses with her daughter, Nu, her own path to learning after fleeing from Laos.

Read the Transcript

Note: There are no letters in the English language that can be translated into Hmong

Nu: Daughter
Shoua: Mother

Nu: Before you and Dad came over to the States, did you ever get a chance to go to school?

Shoua: No, we never did.

Nu: So that means you didn’t know any English then?

Shoua: Yes, we didn’t. We never had a chance. Even when we lived in Laos, we couldn’t go to school because we had to farm. And then when we fled to Thailand as refugees, we no longer had a chance to farm either. So the government gave us some food, and we lived in the refugee camps that were built for us. Even as we eventually decided to immigrate to America, we didn’t know a word of English, let alone Thai. We only knew a couple simple words of Thai, enough to allow you to buy some food in the market, yes, enough to be able to get some food.

Nu: Do you remember the very first day that you arrived in America? I know that you landed in San Francisco, do you remember that day?

Shoua: Yes, I remember. We came the year of 1987, but we had already planned to move and immigrate for a long time before that. When our application was finally approved, we started our journey in March of ’87 – we were transported on buses from Vinai [Thai refugee camp village] to Pana [refugee immigration center at the time], and we had to study. They said that we had never been educated so we had to at least have some knowledge before coming to America. And so at Pana, right before we came to the States, we started to learn the basics.

Nu: What were you studying?

Shoua: When we started, we didn’t know a single word. We couldn’t even write our names. So they taught us how to spell our names. They taught what letters I was going to use to write my name and helped me to write my first name: S-H-O-U-A and last name H-E-R. They told me that I should practice writing my name so I would know, that once arriving in America, even if I didn’t know anything, I would know my name. That I would be able to say my name so that if I was seeing a doctor, for example, that I could at least write my own name.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

“Strive… and work hard at it”

Shoua talks with her daughter Nu about how education can be beneficial.

Read the Transcript

Note: There are no letters in the English language that can be translated into Hmong

Nu: Daughter
Shoua: Mother

Nu: When you began sending us to school, did you and Dad ever have thoughts about how parents who have been educated might have an easier time helping their children? Did you ever compare yourselves with these parents?

Shoua: Yes, we did think about it. Parents who are educated know how to look at their children’s homework and know how to help their children do it. They know how to teach their children. But for parents like us who didn’t have a formal education, when our children come home from school, we look at their homework, and we just don’t know it, because we’ve never been taught it. You are the ones who are learning, but we never learned, and it’s difficult to be taught now since we are older. So we always encouraged you all to pay attention, focus, and work hard. If you couldn’t do it, then we advised that you should get help from your teacher, or, if another Hmong person understood, we could drive you to their house to get help. But if you can do it on your own, then you should really strive and work hard at it.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

Opportunity to learn

Shoua shares her memories and thoughts on being her daughter’s age and her hopes for her children.  

Read the Transcript

Note: There are no letters in the English language that can be translated into Hmong

Nu: Daughter
Shoua: Mother

Nu: This year I’m 21 years old. Can you think back to when you were 21, and can you remember what you were doing at that time? And did it ever cross your mind at the time that in the future you would have sons and daughters attending school in the U.S.?

Shoua: Well, at that time, I didn’t know how to think of that yet. When I was around 15 I got married to your father. And when we arrived in Thailand as refugees, I was probably around 18. So when I was around 20-21 years old, I didn’t really know what to think yet. I just knew that if I were to have children – at that time, of course you had a lot on your mind to think about, but I didn’t even know at that point if we were coming to America. I had a lot on my mind – I knew that if I had children I would want to let them go to school, and not do what the traditional adults have done in the past where they didn’t let their children go to school with others. I knew that I thought differently about education from the traditional parents. I knew that you had to send your children to school so that they could become educated and so that they can put food on the table, find work, and become respected citizens like everyone else. I was able to think of this, but at the time I didn’t know if we would be able to come to America. Because I didn’t know if we would stay in Thailand, if we would come to the U.S., or if we would return to Laos. I had a lot on my mind, but I did believe that if I had children I would send them to school, no matter what country we were living in because I knew that I never had the opportunity to learn. I remember how much I wanted to go to school when I was younger, but I couldn’t. My parents only let my brothers study, not me.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

MARIA & HA

No Photo Available

Thế giới của Mẹ còn nhỏ

Hà nói về việt lo cho con

Maria’s mother, Ha, speaks with her daughter about her life in Vietnam.

Read the Transcript in Vietnamese

"Lúc nào cũng là con người mình"

Maria: Con gái /Daughter
Ha: Mẹ/ Mother

Maria: Mẹ có thể cho con biết thế giới nơi mẹ lớn lên là như thế nào không?

Ha: Hồi bé thì đi học nửa buổi, còn nửa buổi thì giúp ba mẹ.

Maria: Thế giới dống như là những người sống chung với mẹ như thế nào, nói về Tan Xuan, nói về Hóc Môn.

Ha: Sống chung thì mình sống như một cộng đồng, nhà nào cũng biết nhà nào hết. Mọi người biết nhau. Làm việt tại nhà luôn. Mình đi học, học nửa buổi rồi thì về nhà.

Maria: Học nửa buổi là sao ạ.

Ha: Nửa buổi sáng thôi. Nửa buổi chiều về phụ gia đình làm việt, hay chơi.

Maria: Chứ không học cả ngày như ở đây hả mẹ.

Ha: Không. Hồi đó chưa học cả ngày. .

Maria: Hồi xưa mẹ có học trường Tân Xuân giống như con không?

Ha: Có. Học trường đấy luôn.

Maria: Vậy nhớ lại hồi xưa mẹ đi học, mẹ có nhận được lợi ích gì khồng? Là có ai giúp mẹ lúc mẹ học không?

Ha: Không. Tự một mình học.

Maria: Học hồi xưa ở Vietnam có trả tiền không mẹ?

Ha: Có đóng một chúp ít.

Maria: Có phải mình mua sách không?

Ha: Có phải mình mua sách.

Maria: Bà ngoại có giúp mẹ trong đi học không?

Ha: Không. Tại vì bà mắt làm. Bà mắt làm việt để kiếm tiền nuôi cả nhà, đâm ra đâu có, tự học thôi.

Maria: Thế mẹ lúc lớn lên có giúp cát dì không?

Ha: có. Mình biết gì thì chỉ vậy.

Maria: Hồi xưa lúc mẹ đi học ở Vietnam có đại học không?

Ha: Có.

Maria: Thế hồi xưa mẹ có nghĩ mẹ sẽ di đại học không?

Ha: Thì mẹ muốn đi nhưng mà mình không có điều kiện để đi.

Maria: Hồi xưa đại học mắt tiền à.

Ha: Mắt tiền, với lại ở xa. Phải có phương tiện, hoặc có người trở đi trở về. Hối đó thì khó khăn.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

Read the Transcript in English

Mom’s world when she was in school

Maria: Daughter/ Con gái
Ha: Mother/ Mẹ

Maria: Mom, could you tell me about the world where you grew up in?

Ha: Back then, we went to school for half a day, the other half was for helping our parents.

Maria: The world as in how were the people you were living with. Tell me about Tan Xuan. Tell me about Hoc Mon.  [There were an elementary school and a middle school named Tan Xuan in Hoc Mon.]

Ha: We lived like one community. Every household was acquainted with every other household. Everyone knew each other. Work was done at home. The kids went to school for half a day then went home.

Maria: How was school half a day?

Ha: Only for the morning. We went back home for the evening to help our families with work/chores. Or just play around.

Maria: So Mom, schooling was not for the whole day like here?

Ha: No. Back then schooling was not yet for the whole day.

Maria: Back then, did you go to study at Tan Xuan like I did?

Ha: Yes. Studied at the same school.

Maria: Thinking back when you were going to school, did you receive help? As in was there anyone who helped you with schooling?

Ha: No. Studied by myself.

Maria: Was schooling [referring to K-12] in Vietnam had tuition, Mom?

Ha: Yes, there were some fees.

Maria: Did you have to buy books?

Ha: Yes, we had to buy books.

Maria: Did [maternal] grandmother help you with schooling?

Ha: No. She had to work. She had to work to earn money and feed the family; that’s why she had no time. I only studied by myself.

Maria: After you grew up, did you help aunts [referring to mother’s sisters]?

Ha: Yes, I helped with what I knew.

Maria: Back then when you were in school in Vietnam, was there post-secondary education?

Ha: Yes.

Maria: Back then, did you think you would go to college?

Ha: I wanted to go but had no necessary conditions for that.

Maria: Was college expensive back then?

Ha: Expensive, and far away. We would have needed a vehicle, or someone to fetch us back and forth. Back then, things were difficult.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

 

"Lúc nào cũng là con người mình"

Hà nói về việt lo cho con

Ha describes worries she has for her daughter.

Read the Transcript in Vietnamese

"Lúc nào cũng là con người mình"

Maria: Con gái /Daughter
Ha: Mẹ/ Mother

Maria: Có cái gì là từ nhà hoặc nơi mình sống hoặc người xung quanh mẹ muốn các con không bao giờ quên không?

Ha: Không bao giờ quên gia đình và cái bản chất con người mình. Lúc nào cũng như vậy, đừng có thay đổi.

Maria:  Mẹ có lo gì việt học của con không?

Ha: Mẹ lo chứ. Nhà mình không có ai biết gì để hướng dẫn con. Nhưng mà con thì rất tốt. con tự động học. Mẹ cũng yên tâm.

Maria:  Hổi cấp 2, 3, mẹ có lo gì con từ lúc đó không?

Ha: Lo thì thấy con học suốt ngày. Suốt ngày suốt đêm học. Mẹ sợ con bệnh.

Maria:  Lúc mà con nói con được nhận vào mấy trường đó, mẹ nghĩ thế nào?

Ha: Mẹ rất là mừng, như trong mơ.

Maria:  Lúc mà con nói con muốn đi học Harvard, mẹ nghĩ thế nào. Có lo gì không?

Ha: Lo thì ở đây không có ai hết, một mình con. Không biết cuộc sống ra sao.

Maria:  Từ hồi con học ở Harvard đã 3 năm rối, năm nay là năm thứ 3, trong khoản thời gian này, mẹ có nghĩ hay lo gì không?

Ha:  chỉ lo là chơi lạnh mà con đi bộ, phải giữ ấm để khỏi bị bệnh. Chịu khó học.

Maria:   Vâng.

Maria:  Ra trường, mẹ có muốn con làm gì không? Có nghề gì mẹ muốn cát con làm không?

Ha:  Không. Tuỳ theo ý thích và khả năng của cát con thôi.

Maria:  Cát con làm gì cũng được hết?

Ha: Làm gì cát con cảm thấy thích, vui. Mình ham mê, mình làm. Mình mới làm được chứ. Ba mẹ mà bắt ép thì cũng đâu làm được. Đúng rồi.

Maria: Hồi xưa đi học, có ai ép mẹ làm nghề gì không?

Ha: Không.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

Read the Transcript in English

“Always be who you are”

Maria: Daughter/ Con gái
Ha: Mother/ Mẹ

Maria: Is there anything you would never want us to forget?

Ha: Never forget your family and who you are. Always be who you are, never change.

Maria: Do you worry about my schooling?

Ha: Of course. Our family doesn’t know anything to instruct you. But you are good, motivated to learn on your own. My worries are assuaged.

Maria: Did you have worries for me when I was in middle school or high school?

Ha: I was worried that you seemed to study all day, from morning to night. I was worried you might fall ill.

Maria: When I was accepted to colleges, what did you think?

Ha: I was in joy, like a dream came true.

Maria:  When I decided to go to Harvard, what did you think? Did you have any worries?

Ha:  I was worried that we didn’t know anyone here [where Harvard was]. You would be alone. I didn’t know how your life would be like.

Maria: I have been studying at Harvard for three years. This is my third year. In this time, did you have any worries?

Ha: I was worried about things such as when it’s cold and you had to commute, to keep warm so you don’t fall ill. And to work hard in your studies.

Maria:  Yes, mom.

Maria:  After graduation, do you want me to work in any job or field?

Ha: No. It’s only according to your interests and capabilities.

Maria: My siblings and I could work in whatever we choose?

Ha: Work in something you like and feel happy with. Work in something you’re passionate for. If you’re not, how could you work? If father and I were to pressure you, it would not have worked out.

Maria: Back when you were in school, did anyone pressure you to a particular job?

Ha: No.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

"Nâng cao kiến thức của mình”

Hà nói về đại học,

Ha expresses her thoughts on attending college.

Read the Transcript in Vietnamese

“Nâng cao kiến thức của mình”

Maria: Con gái /Daughter
Ha: Mẹ/ Mother

Maria:  Lúc con nói về chuyện đi học của con, có cái gì làm cho mẹ ngặc nhiên hoặc không biết bào giờ không?

Ha: Nhiều khì mẹ không tin được là con học ở đây.

Maria:  Có chuyện gì nhỏ lúc con nói mẹ làm cho mẹ ngạc nhiên không?

Ha: Có khi con nói về bệnh cancer. Là nó do tế bào nẩy sinh ra. Nó là như vậy.

Maria:   Ví dụ mẹ có thể quay lại thời gian và biết cái gì mẹ biết bây giờ, mẹ có muốn đi học đại học không?

Ha:  có, muốn.

Maria:   Thế nếu mẹ đi học đại học hồi xưa, thì có chuyện gì thay đổi bây giờ không?

Ha: Chắc thay đổi hết mọi cái. (cười)

Maria: Vậy ngoài có bành đại học và kiếm việc, đi học đại học có gì giúp được mình không?

Ha:  Mình có thêm bạn bè. Nâng cao kiến thức của mình lên. Mình hiểu biết nhiều hơn. Cái suy nghĩ của mình chứng chắn hơn những người không học. Mình nhìn cuộc đời chính sát hơn.

Ha:  Mình có thêm bạn bè. Nâng cao kiến thức của mình lên. Mình hiểu biết nhiều hơn. Cái suy nghĩ của mình chứng chắn hơn những người không học. Mình nhìn cuộc đời chính sát hơn.

Maria:  Mẹ có lo chuyện gì cho Vi [con (gái) thứ hai] không?

Ha:  Học hành thì không lo, nhưng lo khong biết mai mốt nó giao tiếp thế nào. Vi ngại tiếp xúc với người ngoài. Mát cở hay sao đó. Cái gì cũng ngại. Không giám nói chuyện với ai.

Maria:  mai mốt Vi lớn lên, mẹ có muốn Vi đi đại học không?

Ha:  Có chứ.

Maria:  Mẹ có muốn Vi đi đại học gần hơn không?

Ha:  Gần hơn thì mỗi ngày được gặp con. Tuỳ Vi quyết định thôi.

Maria: Mẹ hay nói với cát con là muốn làm gì thì làm, sao mẹ không ép buột cát con?

Ha: Tại vì ép cát con quá mà cát con không thích thì gò bó cuộc sống của cát con vào một con đường đâu có được, tự cát con lựa chọn. (Bay giờ nói về học hành còn nhỏ) Mình bắt con mình cứ phải học hay đi vào một cài quân khổ, nó còn nhỏ nó không được chơi. Suốc ngày học nó mất tuổi thơ đi. Vừa chơi vừa học để lại một ký ích hồi xưa còn bé cũng được vui choi. Mai mốt lớn rồi tập chung học. Không còn thích thú những cái chơi đó nữa.

 

 

Note about copyright, attribution, and citation:  StoryCorps holds the copyright to the audio recordings of interviews and to the photographs of the participants; StoryCorps has licensed limited use of those to the Bureau of Study Counsel/Harvard University.  Harvard University owns the copyright to all other material on the First-Gen Voices website (bsc.harvard.edu/first-gen-voices).  Quotations of the transcripts and translations of interviews from the website by parties other than StoryCorps and the Bureau of Study Counsel should be attributed/cited as follows: “This excerpt is from a website created by the Bureau of Study Counsel of Harvard University with interviews recorded by StoryCorps (www.storycorps.org), a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”

 

Read the Transcript in English

“Elevate one’s knowledge”

Maria: Daughter/ Con gái
Ha: Mother/ Mẹ

Maria:  When I talk about school, was there anything that surprised you?

Ha: Sometimes I couldn’t believe that you’re studying here.

Maria:  Was there anything small when I talk about studying here that surprised you?

Ha:  One time when you were talking about cancer, and how it was due to uncontrolled cell division. I thought, “That’s how it is.”

Maria:  If you could go back in time and know the things you do now, would you want to go to college?

Ha:  Yes, I would.

Maria:   If you had gone to college back then, what would have changed now?

Ha: Probably everything would have changed. [Laughs.]

Maria: Besides getting a degree and getting a job, how would college education help someone?

Ha: One would make more friends. Elevate one’s knowledge. More educated on things. One’s way of thinking would be more rigorous. One could look at life more informed.

Maria: Do you have any worries for Vi?

Ha: Not about her studies. I just worry for her social life. She’s reluctant about interacting with other people. Maybe she’s shy. She’s timid in a lot of things. Afraid to talk to anyone.

Maria: When Vi grows up, would you want Vi to go to college.

Ha: Of course.

Maria:  Would you want Vi to go to a college closer to home?

Ha: A college closer to home would mean we get to meet every day. It’s according to how she wishes.

Maria: Mom, you often say to us that we could work in any field/job we would like. Why?

Ha: Because if I had pressured you and you didn’t like it, I would have suffocated your life. Forcing you to a path wouldn’t have worked. It’s your decision. [Now talking about studying during childhood] Pressuring my children to study or to choose a particular path, since they’re still young, they wouldn’t have been able to relax. Studying all day, they would have lost their childhood. If they can play outside of studying, they would have fun memories about childhood. Once they’re older, they can concentrate on studying and no longer feel interested in those playthings.

 

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