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FIG Blog: Looking back and going forward

Part two of a unique Freshman Innovation Group blog series.

The College of Liberal Arts welcomes and celebrates first-generation students—the pioneers who are the first in their family to earn an undergraduate degree at a university. That’s why we created a blog series for our Freshman Innovation Group (FIG), a college-specific program that provides incoming first-generation freshmen a learning community, to share their college experience. 

These posts were written by first-gen students this semester before COVID-19 hit Texas A&M. However, we still believe their insight is valuable and their stories deserve to be shared. Because of that, we will share and look back at blog posts written from the Spring 2020 semester, in order to head into upcoming semesters with hope and anticipation for all Aggie students. 


About the Blogger

Howdy! My name is Dana Dang and I am a freshman Psychology major with a minor in Neuroscience and a minor in Art (Emphasis in New Media) from Katy, Texas which is west of Houston. I am involved in a Freshmen Leadership Organization (FLO) called Freshmen in Liberal Arts Reaching Excellence (FLARE) and A-Line Magazine, Texas A&M’s first fashion magazine, as a graphic designer. 

I love designing and creating art and content. This university has really helped me delve more and more into that world of creativity. I am a proud first-generation college student and I am incredibly happy to transform my immigrant parents’ work hard into tangible success in the form of my college journey. Embracing uncertainty is what helps me adjust to change and opens my perspective up to new and enriching experiences. 

Life Before College 

Before coming to Texas A&M, my outlook on my future careers was very limited and I very much expected a linear path to success. I went to a high school that was high in academic competitiveness and had put STEM on a pedestal above any other type of profession. It was mentally straining to take on AP class after AP class just to try to catch up to everyone and it caused many students, including me, to form an unhealthy mentality of comparison. Worth was placed on our GPA and students went to far lengths with cheating, snitching, and taking substances in order to ensure good grades. At the time, it seemed so normal to hear what people would do for a number and I fell vulnerable to this way of thinking and justifying these unhealthy habits of self-deprecation and lack of self-care.

In the grand scheme of things, these four years in high school were not worth that physical and emotional stress. It took me long enough to convince my parents that I wasn’t going to be pre-med anymore because I felt like I was peer pressured to pursue a STEM-based occupation as most of the people at my competitive high school did. Afterward, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was closer and closer to what I wanted to do.

I’ve already had a change of heart from neuroscience to marketing and public relations just within these first two semesters and I’ve learned to embrace uncertainty. I’ve learned to ask for help and to tell people about my plan and to continue exploring and pouring my heart into the things that make me happy. Taking small steps towards content creating while feeling unsure of how it will pan out has been some of the best decisions I’ve made because I’m learning more about myself and my interests. I don’t know how the next three years will turn out but I’m excited to see what life brings to the table. Texas A&M really does have all the resources and supportive people to aid in helping me find myself and my passion. 

What College Means to Immigrant Parents

About 25 years ago, my parents immigrated from Vietnam to the United States looking for new opportunities and before my brother and I were born, my parents were already thinking about us and how we would live. A large amount of my childhood was spent with my grandmother as my parents were constantly at work and the resentment I had as a child matured into appreciation because they kept our future and lives in their hearts even when I didn’t see them. 

As I grew up, I learned that they had dreams, too, of going to school and becoming doctors, engineers, business people, but they sacrificed the money they made to support our family and invested heavily in education. Although as a kid school was constantly a tiring force, I gradually understood the importance of education and the underlying skills it taught me such as time management, critical thinking/analysis, and civil discussion. These skills would be what I search for in my college experience. They taught me to value education and the power it holds to build a sturdy foundation for my future. They showed me how to be a selfless individual and how to live my life with kindness. But most importantly, they emphasized my ambition and to be a fierce spirit on the track to pursue my dreams.

It makes me beyond happy to know that my parents can finally feel like they have made it with their immigrant journey. The moment they realized they could support me and what makes me happy is what made all their hard years of work worth it and I will continue to work for my passion and to give back to them as much as I possibly can. College means that my parents have made it far enough as my supporters to see their hard work in the form of my success and happiness. Their love is not being able to fully understand the English I wrote in this blog post but knowing that I meant every word with love and appreciation.