By Jillian Power | Student Columnist
A new school year is upon us at long last. Although the summer left many of you with wonderful memories, the promise of a new school year for wreaking havoc across Pittsburgh is an attractive thought indeed.
While students revel in their freedom, their parents are left out of the day-to-day excitement. Conversations at the dinner table about the day’s events lose one more voice. Rides in the car provide an empty seat. Small subtractions to their lives take place that build up to one sum total of longing. Yes, your parents may miss you that deeply.
Freshman parents in particular face the most daunting transition. Fresh out of high school, their little birds find themselves in situations they may have never faced before. Who will be there to make sure they eat or sleep or are going to class? Who will hold them responsible for their actions?
This can lead to some students feeling smothered by constant texts, pleas for FaceTime or Skype sessions and even the occasional surprise parental visit to campus. Yet we ridicule the students that indulge these parents by making time to call them back, giving virtual dorm room tours and escort them on impromptu campus tours.
Some parents may be sentimental if their child is a first-generation college student. The most recent statistic available from the U.S. Department of Education states that a massive 50 percent of students entered the 2010-2011 academic year as the first member of their family to attend college. Of that 50 percent, 24 percent came from low-income families.
For better or for worse, a diploma in 2015 means a marginally better professional landscape for young adults than those without one.
Families who have struggled financially would certainly feel the weight of the sacrifice involved in sending a child to college. Perhaps this is a sacrifice that their parents could not make for them, or perhaps they realize the importance of higher education in today’s highly competitive job market. No matter what the reason is, first-generation college parents face an uncertainty no other group of parents can relate to.
They don’t have amusing anecdotes to ease their child’s anxieties about the adjustment to college living. They can be just as blind going into school as their children. Parents, who once stood as a child’s role model, are facing a situation that will determine their child’s future while they stand helpless in providing a direction for them.
This isn’t a bad thing, or even a thing that is exclusive to first-generation parents. In some ways, college life is like living in a new country. College opens students to a variety of new ways of life, new cultures, new situations. Students are often left navigating these situations in the moment, meaning no frantic text to mom or dad asking for advice. It’s the same reason why studying abroad is encouraged; it puts students outside of their comfort zone in order to expand their worldview and foster intellectual and emotional growth.
The more often students are questioning their surroundings, the more personal their moral code becomes. We relied on our parents to teach us right from wrong, and now it’s our turn. Parents can be frightened of this. How can they know for sure that their kid will make the right choices?
Whether you’re an only child, the youngest, the oldest or a kid in the middle, your parents are feeling the loss of having you around. Commuters, even, have rocked the boats of their family life with their decision to attend college.
Changing a family dynamic, or any kind of major change to a household, is a stressful time. Imagine if you came home to find your dorm room or apartment rearranged. Everything is still there, yes, but it’s different.
The next time your family pesters you for some attention, think twice before hitting “ignore call”. It may not be much to you, but your voice could be the best thing they’ve heard all day. And for those of you who don’t have the kind of stellar family life that I am so hopelessly optimistic you do, fear not. Your family now is here at Duquesne. Welcome home.