Graduation season is a time of celebration and pride. Friends and family gather around to recognize the accomplishment and degree. For first generation college students, this event comes with even more excitement and pride.
Melanie Montejano moved to the United States with her family when she was six. She didn’t speak English, and had to deal with a lot of ‘firsts’ in a new country. In May, she graduated college with a degree in Engineering. Her parents’ sacrifices and support got her here.
“In many ways, when I earned my degree from Sam Houston State University, on Saturday, my parents graduated with me,” she says in a heartfelt post on LinkedIn. “I owe my diploma to their unconditional support, and to the courage they had to move to this country to provide a better life for our family. I am so proud to be a first generation college graduate!”
Melanie’s parents have taught her some of her biggest lessons, and she is very grateful for their sacrifices to get her where she is today. Her family motivates and inspires her to keep pushing and growing.
“My family members are some of the loudest people you could probably come across, but in a good way and are always down to have a good time. They are fun, caring, supportive, good listeners, and most importantly loving,” Melanie tells Love What Matters.
“They inspire me because they are always there to support, to love, to listen, and of course I would not have had the opportunity to have my career without my dad’s hard work,” she says. “I have worked so hard to show them that their sacrifices as immigrants were worth it.”
Melanie’s life as a first generation immigrant and student has not been without struggles. She speaks on her first years in the US as difficult and full of new experiences.
“I remember the fear of not knowing what would happen and the challenges I would face. It was a lot of my family’s first times,” Melanie tells Love What Matters. “First times are difficult because you have no one to guide you.”
In college, she had to go through similar experiences again, experiencing a lot of ‘firsts’ and navigating a new field. Beyond normal growing experiences, Melanie felt a lot of guilt surrounding her experiences, which impacted her experience greatly.
“Many children of immigrants often feel guilt for many reasons like not being enough or for seeming ungrateful. I think mine is more of ‘thriver’s guilt’ or the guilt of growing,” Melanie says. “I feel so much guilt of growing, healing, accessing resources and opportunities that my parents did not have. I feel guilty about the place I get to live in and the trips I want to take, because my parents did not have that.”
Starting A Career
By beginning to work through these things, Melanie has gained a new respect and understanding for her parents. As she gets older, the family has become closer, and she remains grateful to them for many of her successes.
Her experience in college also led her to finding a career and degree she enjoys and is passionate about. After graduating, she accepted a job as a Heavy Civil Field Engineer.
“I chose my career because it is a creative profession, it gives you the opportunity to solve problems and design things that really matter, things that make the world a better place in which to live,” Melanie tells Love What Matters.
She hopes to one day go back to school and get her Master’s Degree, but for now is excited to continue to learn and grow. Her story shows the importance of her parent’s sacrifices and the ways that passion, love, and hard work will take you far.
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