Letter #149

Content Warnings: Depression, academic stress, substance abuse, alcohol use, therapy.


I am the oldest daughter of three. I am the proud Mexican-American daughter of Mexican immigrants. My mother is a stay-at-home mom, and my father is a construction worker. Growing up, my father struggled with alcohol abuse and mental health, making it hard for him to keep a job, so we never had a steady income. As the oldest, I knew it was my responsibility to be successful and advance my family’s condition.


My parents did not have the language or financial capabilities to help me in my education, but they always instilled in me the importance of education and hard work. Since elementary school, I was determined to get a post-secondary education. I had a plan. I prioritized school and extracurricular activities. I worked sleepless nights in high school to get the top grades, balance leadership positions and college programs, and prepared for my college applications & scholarships. During this time, I fell in love with nursing through one of my internships where I shadowed nurses. I became Valedictorian of my class and graduated with a full-ride to the University of Michigan School of Nursing. I was ecstatic to be able to attend my dream university without having to worry about affording it or burdening my parents financially.


As a first-generation student, settling into college was difficult especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic where I was constrained to a computer screen. I thrived in high school within the bounds of my community and people, but when I got to the University of Michigan, I was lost. I did not know how to study, and I did not know how to handle this new environment and expectations I knew nothing about. The rigors of the nursing curriculum got to me, and I struggled immensely in science courses and keeping up with the workload.


During the fall of my sophomore year, I fell into a bad depression. It made school even more difficult, and I found myself falling behind. I ended up having to drop a course, Pathophysiology, because I knew I was not in a mental state to pass. This course was an essential prerequisite for me to continue on my 4-year track to graduate with a nursing degree, so I had to wait one full school year to retake the nursing course and be on track again with the program. This meant I had the option to give up on nursing or do a 5th year. I was on multiple scholarships that only covered me for 4 years, so choosing to continue on this path meant I had an extra year that I was not financially prepared for.


Additionally, this was a difficult decision because I felt like a disappointment and failure to my family and community. This was very difficult for me, but I sought out therapy and leaned on my family to get out of my depression because quitting was not an option. I continued being a full-time student and picked up two minors as I waited for the next fall semester to retake the course. I continued to struggle with depression, but therapy set me with the tools I needed to prepare for the coming semester. I tried out new study routines, followed a strict studying schedule, attended tutoring, and doubled down on caring for my mental health.


Through my struggle I learned how to be independent, yet also how to lean on my community and resources. Despite the barriers on the road, I have remained persistent in achieving my goal of completing my Bachelor of Science in Nursing to become a registered nurse and eventually attending graduate school to become a certified nurse midwife. As I prepare for my 5th year as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, I have grown so much and learned a lot. I am happier and healthier than ever. I learned how to study and thrived in my clinicals. I am excited as I finish up my last year. Never give up! First-generation students stand up!

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