FIG Blog: Looking back and going forward
Part three of three 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, and welcome to my blog! My name is Regan Licciardello, and I am a freshman psychology major at Texas A&M who’s also doubling in the Pre-Med track! Some of my favorite things in the world include true crime television shows, my cat named Sparkle, and chocolate. I also really enjoy helping others, which is the main reason I decided to publish this blog. My time at Texas A&M has been one filled with much joy and many blessings!
I am currently part of three organizations, including the Aggie Figure Skating club, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, and the Partnership for Primary Care early assurance medical program within the College of Medicine. Becoming involved in each of these outlets has motivated me to grow spiritually as well as academically, and has provided me with ways to relieve stress that can easily build up throughout the semester. I am most thankful for how the Lord has transformed me into recognizing His plan for me: to become a doctor! As it is only my second semester in college, there is still some navigating to do. However, witnessing the work of God and His presence in my life helps me to keep pushing forward, past any complications or feelings of uncertainty because I know I am in the right place.
Life Before College
Growing up in the small town of Llano, Texas taught me many things. Not only do I have high standards for a plate of barbeque, as no brisket can top Cooper’s, but I have also learned the importance of community and relationships. Living in a small town is such a unique experience. If there was ever a problem or if I ever needed help, I knew I had many connections with wise individuals to help me along the way. I had (and still have) many unrelated grandparents to look out for me. The small town population reflected itself in my high school graduating class. I graduated third out of one hundred and thirteen. The sense of community and southern hospitality was highly recognizable among many of my teachers at Llano High School. All the teachers knew all the students, and the majority of teachers were willing to help out whenever it was needed. I also felt my teachers truly cared about me and my success.
However, there were a few things that I originally believed growing up in a small town had not prepared me for. When I decided I was going to attend Texas A&M, one of my fears was the size of the university. Being a first generation college student, I had no idea how college courses were going to be, much less how professors could even teach 300 students at once!
To put these numbers into perspective, remember that I only had 500 students in my whole high school. Before college, I claimed growing up in a small town did not prepare me to sit and learn in a lecture hall that had the capacity to hold half of my high school. I also was concerned about how to get professors to know me. While I was anxious about standing out to professors and the size of this university, once I tackled the first week of classes, I discovered the phenomenon that many Aggies, including myself, swear by. Though Texas A&M may be the largest university in Texas, it too has a small town vibe on campus. How could anyone claim lack of southern hospitality whenever the official greeting on campus is Howdy? After the first week as an official Aggie, I knew this was the place for me. To my surprise, my small town roots have benefitted me in becoming part of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie family. Even Cooper’s Old Time Barbeque has followed me to College Station.
My College Journey
In 4th grade, my neighbor Rebecca told me about Texas A&M. From that moment, I began dreaming of attending college here. I didn’t know anything about it except for some facts that Rebecca told me, but a seed was planted and began to grow. When I told my mom that I wanted to attend Texas A&M, she told me that it was an excellent university and that I should begin to prepare early because it was difficult to get accepted, but it gave me something to work towards. I worked hard on my studies and developed strong study habits and work ethic. I worked hard and continued to move up in rank until I graduated third in my class in May 2019. I learned an important lesson — we often have to delay gratification until the future but work really hard now. It can seem like nothing is happening but the groundwork is being laid for future successes!
Being accepted into and finally arriving at Texas A&M was a dream come true. But I really had no grasp of what would transpire or how things would actually unfold. Though my mom had attended college, she had not graduated, and my father had not even graduated from high school. I am one of the students who was at risk of slipping through the cracks because navigating college is tricky, to say the least.
Additionally, starting college at Texas A&M also meant learning my way around a new town with lots of traffic, which my hometown does not have. Llano has only four traffic lights which I sure miss sometimes while I’m sitting through traffic lights that seem to take five minutes to turn green.
When I moved to College Station, I was living on my own for the first time in my life, which was a big transition. There was no one to remind me to buy convenience items like toilet paper, paper towels or trash bags, and I had to learn how to operate the thermostat. I also had to figure out where to take my car to have the oil changed and the tires rotated. But the mysterious bus system was the most difficult thing that I had to learn. The first time I rode the bus, I passed by my stop several times waiting for the driver to pull over and let me off, which never happened. Then I realized that I had to pull the string to let the driver know I wanted to get off at my upcoming stop. These are just a few of the things, unrelated to actual college, which gave me extra anxiety prior to the first day of the fall semester.
And then the semester began! On Sunday, August 25, I could not get to sleep. I stayed awake all night overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty. What if the bus was full, and I had to wait for a second bus to come along? What if I couldn’t find my first class? What if I was late to class? What if I was unprepared for the rigors of college life since I came from a tiny high school? And on and on and on my mind whirled. On the morning of Monday, August 26, 2019, I stoically arrived on campus to begin college. Amazingly, I found each class and actually enjoyed them and, though I continued to experience issues which I had never even pondered, I finished the semester with 4-As and 1-B, with a 3.73 GPA and now I have more confidence about the prospects of my success!