There was an energy in the air, and Adrianna Patch could feel it. Miami University’s campus felt like another world, but one that would welcome its newcomers with open arms.
The scenery on the campus took her breath away. There were bridges reminiscent of medieval times. Nature trails whose winding turns she could imagine navigating in times of stress.
Although it was only her first visit to Miami, she felt optimistic about what her future could be.
And when the bell tower rang out with music, Patch knew she was home.
Patch, now a junior computer and electrical engineering double major, is one of over 3,000 first-generation college students at Miami. During the move-in process, Patch remembers being intimidated by her peers.
“I was definitely kind of culture-shocked,” Patch said. “I hadn’t really been around very educated or rich people before.”
Her parents were supportive of her choice to attend Miami, but she was still nervous about her academic performance and social life.
“I was really scared about making friends because I felt like everyone had such a different experience than me,” Patch said.
While she didn’t experience anyone outwardly treating her differently, Patch still felt internal confidence issues. However, after finding the Miami Firsts student organization, Patch felt more at home. This year, Patch has taken on the role of Miami Firsts’ president.
“This club is one of the biggest things that has made me feel a sense of community at Miami,” Patch said. “It's easy to feel alienated when you are surrounded by people with drastically different backgrounds from your own.”
Craig Bennett, director of the Student Success Center, helped organize Miami’s First-Generation Student Day, a university-wide event celebrating first-generation students. The event was held on Nov. 8, National First-Generation Student Day.
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” Bennett said. “I think that happens a lot with first-gen students because they didn’t grow up in a house where people were talking about going to college.”
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During the event, students were able to connect with Miami Firsts and Patch.
“[The organization] allows other first-generation students to help support new first generation[s],” Bennett said.
The event took place across campus with many departments holding different events throughout the day. At the center of the celebration was a meet and greet in Armstrong Student Center. At the end of the day, students were also welcome to join University President Gregory Crawford and Renate Crawford at Lewis Place for a reception.
“My biggest hope is that, as the club awareness grows on campus, we can lower the stigma associated with coming from poverty or being first-gen and replace it with pride,” Patch said. “I am hoping Miami Firsts will be able to empower other students like it’s done for me and, most importantly, make them know they are not alone.”
First-generation sophomore Nana Hemaa said she felt she had fewer challenges transitioning to Miami compared to some of her peers.
“From the jump, school was placed on a very high pedestal, so I knew I always had to work towards grades and academics,” Hemaa said.
Hemaa said she first struggled to find resources at Miami to help her, but after connecting with an advisor, her transition was smoother.
“What our focus was for Nov. 8 is to celebrate what they bring to our campus but also create an awareness on campus of the support that can be available,” Bennett said.
Patch said that first-generation students have a unique skill set that they can put to use at Miami.
“[First-generation students] are just as capable as anyone else here,” Patch said. “Sometimes maybe [they’re] even more capable, because [they’ve] already had to go through so much struggling.”