My Experience as a First Generation College Student at Regis

Waking up is always challenging. I have to get up at 5:30 to ensure I have enough time to get ready and leave the house to make it to campus before traffic ramps up. I usually throw on something clean, like a t-shirt or a button-up, some jeans and my favorite leather jacket when it’s chilly. Before heading out of my room with my two dogs in tow, I put on a little makeup.

I try to stay quiet since my parents are still asleep and grab my backpack with my trusty computer and iPad. However, my dogs, Toto and Ollie, have other plans, usually play-fighting right outside my parents’ door.

From there, I head downstairs to let Toto and Ollie outside and start up the Keurig. While waiting for my dogs to finish up outside I fill up my water bottle and start my coffee. My dogs usually come barreling inside by then, ready to get their breakfast or steal something from me.. Making sure I told my parents that my dogs got breakfast, I get in my car and head to Regis. By then it’s usually about 6:30 a.m.

The drive to Regis on I-25 is usually eventful, but If I get lucky, I’ll make it in 30 minutes. If not then it might be up to an hour's drive. I try to play some music to cheer myself up on the way, singing along and blasting my favorite songs as I go.

When I was looking for a college, I had two things in mind: I wanted it to be small and green. Otherwise, my major, computer science, could take me just about anywhere. I was apprehensive about visiting Regis originally and when I did, I was shocked to find the campus covered in trees and greenery. Regis had ticked all my boxes; being green, small, and having computer science made it a really good fit. When it was time to pick which college I would go to, I decided that Regis would be where I would get my degree.

Even now, when I make the daily drive to campus, I love seeing the trees and the side of Clarke Hall come into view. It amazes me every time I see it. Walking from my car to the Student Center or my class reminds me of when I visited a family in Poland, which was why I wanted the greenery in the first place. I have loved it so far and most likely will continue to.

It’s usually about 7:30 when I make it to campus, so I head over to the Student Center to hang out with friends before class. My friends usually joke about how early I am, but with the commute, I usually just prefer sitting and waiting for my class a little longer.

Making friends had been a big worry of mine. I didn’t know when or where to look. I knew that Regis is a small college, nothing like the overpowering colleges I grew up hearing about. However, I’d always struggled to find new friends even having been in small schools my whole life. Thankfully, during orientation, just days before classes started, I was introduced to a few people that I now call my friends. Even now, a few weeks into classes, I’m still meeting new people that I hope to continue to talk to throughout college.

At Regis, I have found that it is easy to find someone to talk to or someone to get to know because in class there are usually times when we’re put into groups to work together. The general community is also very inviting, pulling people together and into groups. I’m extremely grateful for this. It was nothing like my high school where people had a certain friend group, and there was almost no way of meeting new people to hang out with. Now, in college, all of my friends have very different schedules and are all mostly going down different paths with their degrees but we all still try to meet when we can between classes or before them as I do nearly every day.

Here is where my days begin to vary. If it’s a Monday or Wednesday, I usually sit with my friends until 8:30 before going to my work study. I’ll be there for about three hours before heading to the Student Center to talk more with friends before my first class at noon. Afterward, I head back to the Student Center to eat lunch with my friends before my next class at 2 p.m. That class usually ends at about 3:15 p.m. and I head home.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have classes back to back, from 8:00 a.m. to about noon. On Thursdays after my last class, I have work-study.

Most of the classes that I’m taking are lectures, meaning I usually sit in class while the professor is at the front of the room teaching. However, this does vary from teacher to teacher. My calculus class is lecture-based, with my professor giving us the formulas and everything we need to complete our weekly assignments. On the other hand, my First Year Writing seminar isn’t as focused on teaching ideals. We usually cover a topic and spend about five minutes writing about the topic. We also have class time where we just work on any of the homework that the professor had assigned to us such as our essays.

My other three classes are Philosophical Explorations, General Psychology, and Introduction to Programming. Philosophy is my only 8 a.m. class and I hope never to have to take one again. General Psychology has been an interesting class, however, it’s also the class that helped me choose not to pursue a medical career. Psychology is my only other class that would fit into the general idea of a lecture class.

Lastly, my only computer science class is Intro to Programming. That class is the one that has been the most rigorous, with weekly assignments due on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. In class, we work in groups on the activity, learning about the new aspect of coding and learning more about the topics we’d covered before. I’ve found the most satisfaction from finishing assignments for this class because I get to see a piece of coding come to life and to know that I was the one who built it from scratch. It’s challenged me but it’s also helped me solidify that I do want to go into the computer science field.

My parents are both from Poland and are learning more English. Both of them had different experiences with high school, and school in general, growing up. The Polish school systems are completely different from the ones in the United States. For example, when I was setting up my FAFSA, I had to turn to Google to figure it out since my parents hadn’t ever filled one out. When it was time to apply to colleges, it was an exciting time for all of us.

With the help of Google, I usually work on some of my assignments as I wait for my parents to get home. At around 6:30 every day I try to give my dogs their dinner before heading back to my room to continue working. It’s then that I am usually reminded of why I chose to go to college.

I’m usually never good with setting goals for myself, usually liking to go with the flow of how things will work out but currently, I do have goals. My main goal, first and foremost, is to finish college and earn my bachelor’s degree. After that, I’ve considered doing something along the lines of criminal justice, working for a social media company to improve their site, or even helping to work on the next mobile phone generation like 5G. While I love the idea of all of these, I haven’t been able to figure out if I truly want to do any of them.

Other than work and school, I have my personal goals like eventually getting a plot of land somewhere and my own home. I would make it into a small dog sanctuary for older dogs and a place for people to come and relax. I also want to make sure I can take care of my own financial needs and eventually travel around Europe for a while.

When my parents get home, we usually sit down to eat dinner and talk about how our days were. No matter how the day went, we try to sit with one another for dinner. We usually have a home-cooked meal that we made over the weekend to enjoy before my dad and I take our dogs out on the daily walk. No matter the weather, my dogs  always insist on going on their walk and will bother everyone in the house until we take them outside.

After the walk, we all usually go to our areas to decompress from the day. I usually head back to my room to study or do homework while my dad watches sports and my mom watches the Hallmark Channel. My dogs like to run from person to person, asking for pets and, if they’re lucky, treats. As the day comes to a close, we all wish each other good night before I take the dogs back to my room so that my parents can sleep. Sometimes, if I have a lot of schoolwork, I’ll end up staying awake a while longer than my parents but eventually, I’ll head to sleep with my dogs snuggled up at my side, ready for the next day.

Meet Claudia

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Claudia Podlesna is a first-year commuter student at Regis University.