First-generation students talk college culture shocks and overcoming homesickness


Jake Fischer

(Left) Kaily Trinidad (she/her), a biohealth sciences major at Oregon State, shows an photo of her and her mom on May 12 next to the MU Quad. Kaily said, “In high school, I kind of chased that feeling of wanting to be off the Little Rock… And I didn’t realize how much I was gonna miss it”. Jeanell Brandonill (she/her), a public health major at Oregon State, poses with a photo of her family on May 12 next to the MU quad. Jeanell said, “Coming to OSU, and living on your own, it’s a whole different type of independence.”

Nino Paoli, News Reporter

While all incoming students may struggle to adjust to college life, many first-generation students have no idea what to expect.

First-generation 2023 graduates Kaily Trinidad and Jeanell Bandonill both grew up in multi-generational households on Oahu, Hawaii.

Bandonill, who graduated with a degree in public health this spring and is on the pre-med track, and Trinidad, who will graduate with a biohealth sciences degree in June, reflected on their experience at Oregon State University.


Why did you choose to go to OSU?

Bandonill: I decided to go to OSU, honestly, because of financial aid. They provided me a better option for education. Back home is a bit more expensive for me to stay, so I decided to … leave (Oahu). There’s a saying: ‘if you don’t leave now, you’re never gonna leave.’ So I took that little leap of faith.

Trinidad: I grew up in a really small school. My school’s graduating class was six people. I knew that I wanted to go to a bigger school. My brother went to Eugene, originally at UO, and I knew I wanted to do a pre-med track, and OSU would have a better program. And I just really liked the feeling of community on campus here and it kind of just felt right … I think, growing up, I always knew that I wanted to go to the mainland. But I think it didn’t really hit me until I came here that I realized, ‘Oh … this is different, you know?’ 


What was your experience like when you first started at OSU?

Trinidad: My freshman year … every single day for the first month, I cried. Every single bench on campus, I would sit down, call my family and cry … I would just be so homesick and was just really sad, and I just wanted to go home.


What are the biggest culture shocks you experienced coming to college?

Bandonill: Back at home, (the people) are so nice, but people here, it’s cutthroat … back home it’s kind of more open or welcoming. Here it’s a little bit more closed off. And then the food here kind of lacks in the seasoning department … there’s the same options all the time, you get tired of eating the same thing. Back at home, you have options and you have access to home-cooked meals … when you’re on campus, it’s kind of hard to get fresh home-cooked meals. Rice was a hard thing to get here. 


What do you know now that you wish you knew? 

Trinidad: I wish I knew how much I was going to miss home. (I) feel like I didn’t appreciate what I had at home. I kind of felt like, in high school, I kind of chased that feeling of wanting … to be off the little rock … I didn’t realize how much I was gonna miss it and crave it. 

Bandonill: I didn’t realize how independent you had to be when you leave. I didn’t realize how reliant I was on my family. I thought, right then and there, that I was independent already, because I had a job, I could drive, I cooked for myself, I cleaned, I looked after myself. I thought that was independence. But then coming to college, coming to Oregon State, and living on your own, it’s a whole different type of independence. You’re literally fending for yourself without your parents or your family’s help. 


What advice do you have for incoming first-generation students?

Trinidad: Find people you feel like you’re at home with. I think that’s what really helped me here. Find people that you feel like you have a sense of home and community, and you feel like you have a sense of belonging with, because who you surround yourself with and what you surround yourself with really can make or break your four years.

Bandonill: Be open to opportunities, and also to turning down opportunities. Just because one door closes doesn’t mean another one isn’t going to open. That’s how I felt a lot … just because I lost one opportunity, I thought it was the end of the world. But in actuality, it opened another door, which could honestly benefit you more. So I feel just be open to opportunities and experiences.

Trinidad hopes to be an optometrist in the future, and Bandonill is looking into the fields of dermatology, oncology and hematology.

The two wear jewelry given to them by their family members, which includes Bandonill’s Pandora charm bracelet and Trinidad’s jade bracelet to bring prosperity, wealth and good luck.

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