What does it mean to be “first-gen”? The narratives in this collection offer answers that connect students across oceans and national borders; across differences in skin color, languages, and cultural upbrings; across tensions between the power of ancestral histories and the drive to pioneer. In Spring 2022, a group of undergraduate and graduate first-gen students from California State University, Los Angeles and Durham University, England came together for a remote writing workshop. Over the course of two weeks, workshop participants were invited to study and contribute to stories about first-gen college identities. The creative pieces that were generated from this collaboration demonstrate international commonalities between first-gen students: experiences of culture shock; feelings of impostering; empowering relationships with mentor teachers; equally impactful connections with non-college going family and friends; perseverance, resilience, resistance, and other “first-gen” qualities that show up in the scholarship; deep resentments, dark thoughts, and unspoken fears; overwhelming gratitude; grit, exhaustion, and dis/belief in ability. From an access-oriented California state university to a historic public research institution in northeast England, these stories offer critical insight into the lived experiences of first-gen students around the world. In their own words.


Text & Type extends a special thank you to Cal State LA graduate student workshop facilitators, Rebecca MacLean, Raoul Rodriguez, and Jasper Yangchareon, for their dedicated work with the student writers featured in this issue. We also thank Durham faculty and First Generation Scholars Network mentors, Dr. Vikki Boliver, Dr. Michelle Addison, and Dr. Jonathan Drury, whose research and enthusiastic support of this collaboration have resulted in more inclusive representations of the college experience from the US to the UK.

Published: 2022-10-23