First-Generation Student Alexandra Vick
Undergrad: University of Iowa
Q. Why didn’t your parents attend college?
A. My mother had me at a very young age and needed to work multiple jobs immediately after giving birth to me to support me.
Q. What made you decide to attend college?
A. College was never offered to me as an “option” to attend. My family came to America looking for freedom and opportunities they wouldn’t have in their home countries. It was reinforced daily while in high school that I must go to college. Pursuing my education was the least I could do for my parents because they sacrificed so much to allow me to have that opportunity.
Q. Did you know you were a first-generation college student?
A. I did not know I was a first-generation student or what that truly meant until I was already in my first year of college. I thought it just meant you were the first generation to be born in the United States. I realized what first generation meant when someone at my university was shocked to hear I was the first person in my family to attend college.
Q. What were the biggest challenges you faced as a first-generation college student?
A. I was judged by other students who were not first-generation and was made to feel I wouldn’t be successful in college. I come from a low socioeconomic background and have been financially independent since high school. It was difficult for me to apply to multiple colleges let alone find to one I could afford. I would not have been able to attend college without the scholarship I received from the University of Iowa. I also felt guilty leaving my siblings at home, especially when they would call me for help with problems that they were dealing with.
Q. Why did you enroll in the Health Science Intensive program, and what career are you pursuing?
A. I share the same values of diversity and community that are emphasized in this program. I was drawn to Johns Hopkins because of the innovative curriculum that aligned with my personal learning style. I am pursuing a career in medicine and am confident the Health Science Intensive will prepare me to become not only a medical student but also a physician.
Q. How does being a first-generation college student affect you now in the Health Science Intensive program?
A. I come from a low socioeconomic background and have always struggled with having money to afford the cost of living and education. I was shocked to see how much graduate school would cost and how few opportunities were available for graduate students to receive scholarships. This has made it extremely financially difficult to pick up my life and move across the country. I had to use my entire savings to start my life here, and without GRAD-PLUS loans I would not be in this program. The pressure to succeed is much higher now. My studies are more demanding and require more time. I do not have the opportunity to go home as much, and I feel guilty for missing out on family events and not being physically present when they need me.