Selena Rincón & Norma Vargas


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.”


selena rincón & norma vargas

“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.”


selena rincón & norma vargas

“…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.”

first-gen voices

First Gen Voices

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).

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