It was a hot and sticky summer evening as I sat atop my horse, Ginger. The smell of leather mixed with horse sweat lingered around my face like a fog. Ginger let out a few snorts of impatience and would do a little hop as if to tell me, “Can we run already?” I felt uneasy to let her loose; I felt uneasy to be in a place where I could easily fall and get hurt.
Suddenly, a twig snapped, and a deer could be seen as it ran off, most likely because it smelt the presence of a human. It felt like Ginger leaped twenty feet in the air, as she broke off into a panic. Her hind feet went up, and the next thing I knew I landed on the ground. She broke off into trot still bucking a little bit, and letting out long snorts. While I slowly came to my feet, she pranced back to me as if to now say, “What happened to you?” I learned two important things that day; I should always be prepared for the little surprises, and when I do fall down, I have to get up, swing back in the saddle, and ride on despite the number of times I will fall.
This experience while horseback riding is similar to my first year college experience. As I sat in my classes during the first week, my teachers all made one point clear—this is not high school. This was not that shocking to me, although I believe my high school could have done a better job of preparing me for the course load, and the level of difficulty I would be facing. I felt it a little strange to have “recommended” homework instead of required, which completely discouraged me from studying. When I didn’t do as well on any of my first exams, it was a realization that I needed to do better on my exams because my final grade was dependent on it.
Not only was I discouraged from studying due to lack of graded homework, I found that because my classes were surprisingly shorter, it made it tough to grip onto the words of the professor and what he or she was trying to teach us. In high school every day I had “block classes,” hour-and-a-half long classes, and here at the university my classes are an hour-and-twenty minutes or fifty-five minutes, and meet either two or three times a week per class. So not only did I have to learn how to study, but also how to understand the teacher’s words and apply them to my book.
In my first year of college, time management outside of class was a hard thing to train myself to do. Being used to the high school way where my classes were back to back, I had this new found freedom to do as I please for a good hour before my next class. About 33 percent of students are affected when it comes to learning how to time-crunch (Sterling Casil). I had to train myself to take advantage of the time I had between classes for studying, instead of scrolling through Facebook.
At the end of my first semester, I was majorly thrown off the horse for the second time in my life, metaphorically speaking of course. Looking at my final grades, I saw a big, fat D stamped behind Biology. Emotions hit me like a flood—disappointment, frustration, panic, and doubt. I couldn’t tell my mom that I didn’t do well in the one class she was really pushing me to take, and then there was the thought of “Oh no, will I graduate in the biology field?” Since I was a first-generation college student, I had about a 27 percent chance of graduating in four years (Concordia Portland Online). Despite these thoughts, I swung my leg back in the saddle, and I took biology for a second time. Little did I know, the second time I’d take biology would be my last.
As a first generation student, I had many challenges that were going to come against me; finances were, and still are, one of the biggest burdens. I had to go to school full time to be eligible for financial aid, yet I had to work part time to cover my bills. When being compared to second, third, and even fourth generation students, first generation students are twice as likely to be financially dependent (Concordia Portland Online). At one point, I felt like quitting because it is expensive to go to school to earn a simple piece of paper. On average, a student is in debt $23,000 at the end of his or her four-year program (Sterling Casil). My mom was my biggest fan, and she encouraged me to stay in school.
At the end of my second semester, I came to the realization that I had a bigger love for English than I originally thought. The Prospect of researching and writing papers didn’t scare me in the least, so I switched majors from Biology to English Literature. Switching majors is something that about 80 percent of college students will do at least once; and every student will change his or her course study a minimal of three times, on average (Ramos). I found myself to be happier in my new area of study.
That day when I fell off of my horse, Ginger, it was hard to have any desire to get back in the saddle. For one, I was scared she might buck me off again; and two, I knew it would be difficult to get on in the middle of the field (I usually had to stand on a stump to get my leg in the stirrup). After I did manage to swing back on top, I had a feeling that we would get back to the barn without any problems, but I still held onto the horn of the saddle just to be safe.
The experience of my first year of college was like that day I was riding Ginger. There were both good and bad aspects to it. As an incoming freshman, it was probably an “average” year, especially for a girl who was the first in her family to take on an education past high school. Despite the pressures of finances, studies, and not giving up, I’ve made it to my third year of college now, enduring everything that has come my way in the best manner I possibly could. Like the time when I rode Ginger and got thrown off, I stuck it out, and no matter how often I fell, I knew I had to get back up.
“First Generation College Students Graduation Rates.” Concordia Portland Online. Concordia Online Publisher, 2 Nov. 2012. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. .
Ramos, Yuritzy. “College Students Tend to Change Majors When They Find the One They Really Love – Borderzine.” Borderzine. Borderzine, 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 8 Mar. 2015. .
Sterling Casil, Amy. “What Percentage of College Students Fail Their First Semester?”Everyday Life. Global Post. Web. 3 Mar. 2015. .