When Ngan Tran ’21 first arrived at Lehigh, she felt confused and lacked confidence. She says she didn’t know if she had made the right decision to attend Lehigh. After her first semester, however, she says she started to pull herself out of her comfort zone and recognize her accomplishments. Now she will be graduating in just a few months--May 2021--with a degree in political science and sociology.
A Vietnamese immigrant, Tran moved to the United States in 2007. Growing up, as the only English-speaker in her family, she managed the family’s finances, reading and paying bills, and accompanied her parents to doctor appointments and the like. She even handled her application to Lehigh on her own.
“Overall, I feel like I'm an independent person,” she says, “and I wish to be an educator after I graduate.
We asked Tran what advice she’d give her #firstgen self, now that she has only one semester to complete before graduation: “It is okay to be lost,” she says. “Sometimes you just have to be lost to know where you want to go.”
We also asked Tran for her perspective on what people may not understand about #firstgen students: “When people [meet] a first-gen college student, all they can see is the accomplishment of being the first one [in the family] to go to college. However, there are much more sacrifices, especially with the intersectionality of a first gen student. Not only am I a first-generation college student, I’m also a first-generation immigrant. My responsibilities go above school work and house chores. I’m in charge of my family’s well being and finances.”
She says first-gen students should give themselves more credit for their accomplishments: “The things we sacrifice are greater than what others can imagine.”
Tran is the director of finance for F1RST, which promotes an inclusive community for first generation and working class students at Lehigh. She also is a mentor for LUSSI, the Lehigh University Student Scholars Institute that strives to cultivate a sense of community for entering first-year students who identify as first generation or come from an underrepresented minority background. Last semester, she served as a Lehigh student Senator.