Over the past two years, Zipporah Osei offered readers a personal insight
into the experience of being a first-generation college student through her Open Campus newsletter, First Gen
. What does it mean to return home for the summer and feel the pressure from family? What is it like to not only be a first-generation student but also from a low income background – and what does that mean for affordability? How should “first generation’‘ even be defined?
Zipporah herself was a first-generation college student, graduating in 2020 from Northeastern University. She started her newsletter at the start of 2020. Now, settling into her career at Boston.com, Zipporah has decided to bring her newsletter to an end.
Still, she hopes to continue to press for more and better coverage of what it’s like to navigate college as a first-generation student. Along with reflecting on her own experiences in her newsletter, Zipporah has given others a platform to write about their lives in college, too.
I talked to her about why she started her newsletter, perceptions about first generation students, and the overall experiences of students like her. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
You can follow Zipporah on Twitter here
. Also, check out her work
as a community writer at Boston.com.
What first inspired you to start a newsletter focused on first-generation students? What did you envision for your newsletter?
Much of my own life was shaped by my educational experiences and what I had access to and didn’t have access to. I’m a first-generation college student. I didn’t feel that there was a good amount of coverage from the perspective of first-gen students. A lot of it was people who work in education, who want to help first-generation students, which I think is super important. But I was missing out on hearing from the perspectives of students themselves who knew how complicated the college process was. I felt like starting the newsletter could be a good space for me to sort out my own experiences but also reflect back to people who are also first gen.
What is the general public perception of first-gen? How did you hope to add more nuance or understanding to that public perception?
I wanted to highlight just how complicated the process can be by just living in college as a first-gen student and you don’t have as many resources as you would like but also some of the vulnerabilities that come with that. It can be kind of a lonely experience going through college, feeling like people at your campus don’t fully understand you and the struggles you’re going through, whether that is faculty and staff or just your fellow peers.
I also wanted to make sure that the newsletter wasn’t all stories of how depressing college is for a first-gen student. College was a really great experience for me and as hard as it was to make sure that I got through and got the degree at the end of it – I wouldn’t have put in all of that effort if I wasn’t getting something out of it too. I wanted to make sure that people reading knew that. Yes, it’s difficult to be a first-gen student but it is so worth the work that you put in to make sure you succeed.