Join hosts Jezel and Valentina as they share how their first-generation, lower-income (FGLI) and Latina identities intersect at Northwestern and beyond. Are you interested in sharing how your ethnic/racial background interacts with your identity as a first-gen and/or low-income student at Northwestern? Please reach out to us – Valentina’s email is [email protected].

Jezel: Hi everyone. This is Jezel Martinez.

Valentina: And this is Valentina Parra. Welcome back to DiscountEDU, a podcast where we talk about our experiences as FGLI or first-generation low-income students at Northwestern.

Jezel: This is part two of our series on intersections. Today, Valentina and I will be going over how our Latina and FGLI identities intersect at Northwestern.

Valentina: Woo, let's get into it.

Valentina: I thought culture shock would hit me mostly in being Latina and being Mexican at Northwestern, coming from a completely different space, a completely different country. But I didn't realize how being FGLI would play into it until I got here.

Jezel: Yeah, I agree with that. I think most of my culture shock definitely came from the fact that I was at a high school that only had Mexican people. So I think being Latina, more generally than just specifically Mexican, has been more of an active experience and thing that I'm conscious of. But I think also being FGLI at Northwestern is something that you can't ever separate yourself from. So.

Valentina: Yeah, I didn't think about that actually. You're right. I don't know if this is what you meant but it just brought to mind that I didn't consider myself to be Latina. Not that I didn't consider myself to be Latina, not that I'm not, but I just didn't think about being Latina when I was in high school. I was just Mexican. Or it just crossed, I was just born in the U.S., but. Those were. I wasn't racialized, I guess, or not racialized, but.

Jezel: Yeah, I think for me the first time I came to Northwestern was the first time I ever had to think about introducing myself to somebody and being like, “Oh, I'm Hispanic,” or, “Oh, I'm Latina,” because usually – I mean, I guess from my high school it’s kind of just obvious that we're all Mexican, so we've never had to be like, “Oh I'm from this country.” So I think it's been nice to meet other Hispanic people and see what you have in common with them as well.

Valentina: Exactly, when we're all together as Latinos you could feel the palpable differences, but as soon as a white person walks in, suddenly we adopt the Pan Latin Americanism. But yeah, every time you speak to someone, you're kind of reminded that you are at a predominantly white institution. That's a given as a person of color. But even if you talk to other people of color, there continues to be a clear disparity in wealth. So finding FGLI, fellow FGLI POC, fellow FGLI Latinos or in our case, fellow FGLI Mexicans, it's you're cracking down. What are those little dolls called? The ones, the Russian dolls. Are they Russian dolls? You know which one? The one that's a little doll, inside the little doll, inside the little doll, inside the little doll.

Jezel: Yeah.

Valentina: It kind of feels like that, getting there and it’s great that even at a school like Northwestern, we can find people like us.

Jezel: Yeah, I feel like I will say also, compared to my high school experience, since there's less Latinos at Northwestern, I feel like we do a really good job with forming community bonds and we support each other. And I think clubs are a good place to do that.

Valentina: I do want to say though, I think our Latina community can do better at Northwestern. We can start showing up to events. We're not just like. You can start building that community more because we're not just a little tag that we can put on our LinkedIn.

Jezel: Oh!

Valentina and Jezel: Ohhhh. (laughter)

Valentina: You shouldn't just be putting like ‘Latino club’ on your LinkedIn and then you never show up to the meetings. Pull up. Let's go, let's meet. Where do you find balance in these identities? What clubs or spaces do you get involved in to find a place of community, Jezel?

Jezel: I would say the main one for me is definitely Dale Duro. So Dale Duro Latin Dance Company. If you are thinking about coming to Northwestern, you should definitely join Dale. We have over 100 members and I think definitely before our spring show and Tech Week it’s really vital for promoting a space for Latino students to kind of embrace their culture and other people's cultures and kind of bond together. So I feel a very close sense of community within that. And I also do Ballet Folklórico so I'd say the same thing as well. It's a pretty good space and also it doesn't matter if you're a beginner at dancing, it's still very welcoming.

Valentina: Aw. I was going to say I want to be involved in those places and I know they are welcoming to dancers – to the beginner dancers, but I don't join because I'm so scared. I can, I will be at every show and I will be yelling and I will be hyping you guys up but I can't dance.

Jezel: But I think that's what's important too, support’s also important, it's good to see everyone show up for our shows.

Valentina: Oh well, it's not everyone, it's me.

Jezel: Oh. Just Valentina Parra.

Valentina: Well, yes! I like to get involved in groups like Compass, which is a mentorship group for first-gen lower-income students, specifically for first-years run by Student Enrichment Services. But I also, I mean, this is my last year being a mentee because next year we're not going to be first-years probably, maybe. Unless. So I like getting involved in the Quest community, Quest+. If you're listening and you identify as FGLI, but you think that you don't qualify to be a part of Quest+ because you're not a part of QuestBridge (imitates incorrect buzzer noise). Are you a part of the QuestBridge? Are you in the QuestBridge group? Ok, Jezel is not in the QuestBridge group chat. Dallas, are you in the QuestBridge group chat? Dallas isn’t. Aryn, are you? Yeah. Well, she is QuestBridge. Aryn and I are in QuestBridge. But, you should be because it's Quest+. Can't you read Jezel?

Jezel: No. (laughter)

Valentina: It's Quest+, it's for everyone and they have really cool tips in that GroupMe like where to buy or where to not buy textbooks, as in free text – wait, maybe I shouldn’t be disclosing this information.

Jezel: Maybe not.

Valentina: But it's a great, great community. I also like hanging around at the student enrichment, student enrichments, Student Enrichment Services space, down in Plex. I like going to the Multicultural Center. I like going to NAHJ, National Association for Hispanic Journalists, meetings. Even though I have news. I'm dropping journalism.

Jezel and Valentina: Noooo.

Valentina: I'm the first one in this quartet.

Jezel: Well, guys let's take a moment of silence to commemorate Valentina’s journalism career.

Valentina: I like talking. I like the podcast. I like interviewing. I like writing. Oh, wait moment of silence. Yes.

(Farewell music plays for moment of silence)

Valentina: Moment over. I like doing all of that, but I am not, I am not the other skills. I am not a journalist, guys.

Jezel: That's so valid, though. If you're a Latino and you're FGLI and you're coming to Northwestern, don't think you have to stick to your major. I feel like it's really easy to switch your major. And it's good for you to figure out what you want to do early.

Valentina: I just feel like everything that I want to do isn't going to earn me money. Like everything that I enjoy doesn't pay. So might as well do what I love. So my kids can qualify for QuestBridge. I’m doing this for them.

Jezel: That's so sweet of you, Valentina.

Valentina: Thanks. Aryn is laughing in the corner. You can't. You guys can't see but she is clapping her hands together and saying, “Wow, you're so funny.” Well, yes! Anyways, have you noticed that FGLI spaces are full of POC?

Jezel: Yes, obviously. (Laughter)

Valentina: It's not a coincidence, but it's comforting to walk into a space with other people that understand navigating a predominantly white institution as first-generation lower-income students. I think instead of it being a trauma bonding space, which it is, it can be.

Jezel: Yeah.

Valentina: It's also like a community of people that are not competitive.

Jezel: Yeah, I feel we do help each other a lot and I think that's nice to see when people do show up, how they show up for each other.

Valentina: To be fair, we're also not STEM. It might be different with STEM students.

Jezel: Yeah, maybe it's different for them, but I think I may be humanities specific, but I definitely feel like it’s–

Valentina: Collaborative. I'm glad, I'm glad we have found we have made our homes here at Northwestern. It's also joining, by the way, joining these affinity groups or identity-based spaces is important because when they buy food.

Jezel: You get food.

Valentina: I had a hang out, shout out to my beautiful compass group, Nora and Jess. We bought tacos. Oh my gosh, they make me blush. The tacos make me blush. I need that. What I would do. Jezel, what I would do for taquito, torta. Anyways, we had agua horchata and it was so restorative and healing. So definitely if not for the community, which should be the obvious answer, for the food.

Valentina: We have a little guest today, not little. Big. Beautiful guest. She's not with us right now. Rest in peace – nah, just kidding. She's just sent us a message. I want to act like we're in a radio show and we're getting a call from Marcela Cano, class of 2027. My dear friend Marcela shared with us her experience with being Latina and being FGLI. She said that a lot of Latinos – I'm quoting, ok? “A lot of Latinos are first-generation, so through the FGLI communities I have found at Northwestern, I have found people with very similar ethnic and cultural backgrounds and experiences that I have. I think finding people like that helps me feel less alone and helps my imposter syndrome.” Mmm. Real (snaps fingers).

Jezel: Yeah, I do want to know, the fact that a lot of Latinos are first-generation. I think, when I think about my own experience at Northwestern, my biggest goal is to graduate. Not necessarily, I don't really care what the major is or if I switch my major. I don't think you should really care about that. The most important thing to me is to make my parents proud because I know they didn't go to college and they sacrificed a lot of things for me. So I think it means a lot to me that they could send me to Northwestern, that I'm here.

Valentina: I feel like my parents, my parents didn't even know. I think I said this in the other episode, but my parents don't even know what Northwestern is. They just know it's college and they're super proud. I feel like that's different across cultures, of course. And a lot of first-gen students feel a lot of pressure, and my parents just don't know. We just finished doing FAFSA so it was a little stressful situation. Anyways, I hope Northwestern honors my expected family contribution cause let's just say. It's good, it's good. So I'm just trying to enjoy the opportunity of being here. It's humbling for, well, not humbling, the opposite and it's inflating. It makes me feel so awesome that I get to be here. But like Marcella shared, the imposter syndrome is real. I do sometimes feel like, “What am I doing here? Was it affirmative action?”

Jezel: Yeah.

Valentina: Sometimes I really do feel that. Do you experience that or no?

Jezel: I think, well, I guess it's a thought sometimes, but I don't really let myself think about that too often.

Valentina: Real.

Jezel: Because I feel like it's kind of hard to get out of that once you’re in it.

Valentina: True, I feel just when I feel really lucky to be here, it's the automatic thought that comes to my mind like, “Oh actually yeah, you are lucky to be here.” Or I wonder if it was a mistake or something and then I'm like, “Nah, I'm doing good.”

Jezel: No, she ate. She ate those essays.

Valentina: Like not just, it’s important to remember that I am not Northwestern and Northwestern isn't me. I am who I am, and Northwestern is what it is. And I'm just going to make use of the opportunities that it’s providing me and make the best out of the situation. Who cares what got me here and what didn't? All that matters is that I'm getting free food from the clubs that I participate in, and then I'm learning and getting really big-brained. Maybe next episode I'll pull out really big words. The dichotomy of it all. Have you seen that TikTok?

Jezel: She ate? No.

Valentina: Ok. I'll just send it after, but to all the, to our three listeners out there, I know you're going to be turning into 300 soon. Trust and believe. I will send you all the TikTok probably. Well, thank you so much everyone for listening to our stories.

Jezel: Come back next time for another episode of DiscountEDU, a podcast where we talk about our experiences as FGLI. Topic to be decided. It's a mystery, really. So if you want to know, come back for the next episode.

Valentina: Yeah. Are you – also, I want to have a little invitation to the listeners out there. Are you interested in sharing how your ethnic/racial background interacts with your identity as a first-generation and or lower-income student at Northwestern? Please reach out to us. My e-mail is Valentina Parra. That's Valentina, Valentine but with an a at the end. [email protected]. And you can also find it in the description. Alright, thank you so much for joining us today guys. Love you. I hope you sleep snug as a bug in a rug.