Join hosts Dallas, Jezel, Aryn, and Valentina in their second episode of DiscountEDU, a part two of their first episode. They discuss adjusting to the academic rigor of Northwestern, switching up routines, and dealing with PWI/socioeconomic culture shocks.

Dallas: Hey everyone, this is Dallas Thurman.

Valentina: This is Valentina Parra.

Jezel: This is Jezel Martinez.

Aryn: And this is Aryn Honaker.

Dallas: And welcome back to DiscountEDU, a podcast where we talk about our experiences as FGLI, or first-generation low-income, students at Northwestern. Today’s episode is part 2 of what we previously talked about. We will be going in-depth about our transition from not only Bridge to regular classes but from high school to Northwestern itself.

Dallas: What were some of the similarities you think between your high school and Northwestern?

Valentina: Good question.

Aryn: For me, my high school was a PWI (Predominantly White Institution). We went to a white institution and Northwestern is also that, so it wasn't really like a surprise to me. I was used to having to be around and navigate with people who don't necessarily look like me. So it wasn't anything new for me personally.

Dallas: My high school was also a PWI. It was similar because I was also away from home. I guess now I'm closer, but just like an hour closer. I don't know, I think my high school is also kind of on a quarter system thing.

Jezel: I think the quarter system was kind of … I wasn't as stressed as I am this quarter, but I think that definitely depends on what courses you're taking. But the workload definitely does pile up after midterms. And I think that's something I wasn't used to, because since I was on a semester system, it was more spaced out. And there were a lot of opportunities to pick up your grade, which it’s not.

Valentina: Yeah, grades are weird here, too. It really depends on the professor and I guess that's everywhere in college, but I didn't realize it would be like that. You know, in high school, you have many opportunities to do projects, to get to know your teachers … suck up. And I don't know about you guys, but I've had so many responsibilities at home that now being my own responsibility is kind of crazy. Like, instead of worrying about taking care of myself, I'm worrying about — I'm like, just wondering what to do with myself, like, ‘Oh, I can actually like, think about what I'm doing and who I’m spending time with.’ And I'm not spending like half of my day crossing the border.

Dallas: Yeah.

Valentina: Legally.


Dallas: My high school had a bunch of rules and I mean, obviously, college is gonna have rules, but I've definitely had to get used to being my own — well, I’m used to being my own person. But in the way that like, ‘Oh, I can go to this place when I want to go.’ Because at my school, it's like, ‘Oh, you can't leave unless you got signed out with an adult or if you have a pass to leave.’ So I mean, yeah.

Valentina: And where were you gonna go? It's Indiana.


Dallas: Yeah we're in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. I guess, I mean people had houses and then other people just had nowhere to go.

Valentina: Aw.

Dallas: I guess it just depends on who you're friends with. I would say that we have more free time. Like when I can choose my own classes, and I can go on the train or the bus whenever I want or go get food when I want to instead of being restricted.

Jezel: Yeah, I think I'd agree with that, because in my high school, I had eight classes and the lunch period, so there wasn't really a lot of free time. It was just back to back to back classes. And I think even though you did technically get to pick your classes, you didn't really because there's like a certain–

Valentina: Only so many options.

Jezel: Yeah, and you can only take like — you need to take four years, or four credits of math and science and stuff so you're really restricted to what you did, so I just kind of filled my schedule with APs and called it a day.

Aryn: For me, I also didn't have that much free time because I also took a couple APs and I would just put a lot of time studying because I felt a lot of emphasis on my grades. A lot of my self-confidence goes into how good my grades are. I would just lock myself in my room and just study constantly.

Jezel: She took AP Chem.

Aryn: Yeah AP Chem was not fun.

Valentina: She got a five! She also got a five in what? AP Calc–

Aryn: AP Calc AB.

Dallas: Yeah, and she's a journalism major.

Valentina: I was wondering, like, yeah, you don't have to be doing all of that.

Jezel: Aryn, I'm wondering, I know Dallas had a uniform because she had to wear an Irish kilt.

Dallas: That’s insane.

Jezel: But did you have a uniform?

Aryn: No, we didn’t have a uniform. We got to wear what we wanted. I was kind of eating at school, too.

Dallas: Oh OK.

Dallas: I mean, I kind of miss wearing a uniform, low key.

Aryn: It's easier to get dressed.

Jezel: I was wondering because I also had a uniform. So I never had to pick outfits.

Dallas: I just feel like I have no sense of style now. I don't know. So it’s like–

Jezel: You can put back on your uniform.

Dallas: I mean, no.

Valentina: Bring the kilt back.

Dallas: No thanks.

Dallas: I mean at Northwestern, I’ve seen people – rich kids – wear rich, designer brands, but I never feel like, ‘Oh, like, I need that,’ or ‘I feel bad that I don't have it.’ I guess I just miss it being more simple.

Valentina: On the contrary, you're buying your Golden Goose things. SES got me. Student Enrichment Services paid for my winter gear. So who's struggling? Not me.

Dallas: Did you guys experience culture shock when you came here? I didn't necessarily experience it because I've always been around white people. And fast-paced, like, some people are rude and some people are nice.

Aryn: For me, I also went to a PWI so I’m used to being around white people. But I guess the academic side of things, kind of a bit of a difference there because I feel like, because we met every day in high school, we had time to explore a topic extensively over days or weeks. And in college, it kind of depends on what class you're taking. But most of the time in college, you spend like one or two days on a subject and then it's to the next thing, so getting used to managing my time outside of class and making sure I understand everything before we move on, that was a big difference for me.

Jezel: Yeah, I'd say for me, I kind of thought because it was a PWI, I thought I wasn't gonna see as much people of color as I do. I feel like our class is pretty diverse.

Valentina: You also live in South Campus.

Jezel: Yeah, that's true.

Dallas: I think it's a statistic that our class is one of the most diverse ever.

Jezel: Yeah, for Northwestern. So I felt that was refreshing to see, I guess. For academics, I went to a public high school. I think that should tell you what you need to know. But I was always really good at writing. But I don't think I ever had to  expand on stuff to the capacity that I've had to. So I think I've grown a lot as a person, and I wouldn't say my high school prepared me for anything I've had to do at Northwestern. They didn't help me get here either, hot take.

Valentina: Culture shock, that's my middle name. My middle name. That's one word, culture shock. It's one word. Yeah, that's my middle name, it's a toughy. I didn't even know what a Big 10 school was.

Dallas: Me neither.

Jezel: Real, me too.

Valentina: People don't really care.

Dallas: I actually just lied.

Valentina: Yeah, you did.

Jezel: Why are you a liar?

Dallas: Indiana loves basketball.

Jezel: Yeah, where I’m from they're like, ‘What's Northwestern?’

Valentina: Yeah. Northeastern? Boston?

Jezel: They thought I was going to either Northeastern or Northwestern State like nobody–

Valentina: What is that?

Jezel: It's like, ‘I don't know, bro, you tell me. I don’t know where that is.’ But somebody asked me if I was going there one time. And I said, ‘What the hell is that?’

Valentina: When people saw me, they're always like, ‘Oh my God, Northeastern.’ Or ‘Oh, where’s that one, and then they look it up to see the acceptance rate and they're like, ‘This one?’ Like academics, it was hard. We can touch on impostor syndrome in another episode, but like, for real, I noticed that I adapted into this position where I convinced myself that I was stupid, or that everyone was way smarter than me. So I wouldn't compare myself to others. I felt like I was falling behind whether it was money or professional experience or intellect. I just set my expectations for myself down. And I'm still working on bringing myself up. But that's one thing that they don't tell you about being a FGLI student. Or maybe they do, I just didn't know.

Dallas: I mean, they kind of tell you, but I don't think they'll ever prepare you.

Valentina: They tell you that you're not, like you need–

Jezel: You deserve to be here.

Valentina: Yeah, it's a lot of positive affirmations and I’m like–

Dallas: I'm like, well, they tell you that they don't show.

Valentina: Yeah, it's like, ‘I didn't know I didn't belong. Like why are you affirming it so much? Girl.’

Dallas: I’ll say I never knew that my parents never graduated. I only found out I was first gen when I was applying to college and Common App, like, ‘Oh, check if you're, like first gen.’ And I asked my mom and she was like, ‘Yeah’. And I was like, ‘Oh, I didn't expect that.’ There's nothing wrong with not graduating college.

Jezel: D mother?

Dallas: Yeah, I just didn't know. But it's not something that has affected me until I guess now. I feel a little more motivated to graduate because then I'll be the first in my family to have a degree and make my family proud.

Valentina: That’s awesome.

Jezel: Also, I like what Valentina was saying about professional experience. I think one thing about Northwestern students, they're always gonna have that LinkedIn and it's always gonna be stacked up from some internship they did for a district attorney.

Valentina: And that district attorney is their uncle!

Jezel: I thought that was crazy. In high school I never worked a job and I never had an internship.

Valentina: I worked at SeaWorld.

Jezel: In SeaWorld? Did you meet Shamu?

Valentina: Yeah, I sold seafood at SeaWorld, just kidding. I worked at a barbecue place.

Dallas: But I would say we're pretty decently happy here. I mean, it is Winter Quarter.

Jezel: It’s Winter Quarter.

Valentina: But it was sunny today.

Aryn: Yeah, it was sunny today.

Jezel: Just today.

Valentina: And two days ago.

Valentina: We will definitely touch on this in other episodes. But we've been through ups. We've been through–

Jezel: Downs.

Valentina: Thank you, Jezel. I was waiting for someone to finish that.

Aryn: This concludes the second episode of DiscountEDU. Next time we will be talking about our experiences with the application process like Common App, FAFSA, Questbridge and much more.

Dallas: I’m D money.

Valentina: I’m Valentina.

Jezel: I’m Jezel.

Aryn: And I’m Aryn.

Valentina: Why did I say my name like that? I never say it like that.

Jezel: I’m Valentina.

Dallas: Thanks for listening!

Thumbnail graphic by Olivia Abeyta / North by Northwestern