I'm So Glad I Went to the UofM - Sally Parish
I grew up in a small, middle Tennessee town and was the only child in a single parent home. Neither of my parents went to college, and many of the people in my hometown hadn't either. I loved school- I loved to read, loved to write, and always knew that if I ever wanted to leave that small town that college was my only way out. The only problem was, I knew nothing about this mysterious "college" experience, and had no idea how to even begin the process.
My life changed when a University of Memphis admissions counselor came to my high school. Her name was Mona, and I owe her a great deal of thanks. Thanks to Mona, I could see college as a real possibility. She told me the steps to take, the processes to follow, goals to set, and before I knew it I was on my way to Memphis for my first and only campus tour. Within one hour on campus and in the city, I knew I was home. I loved the UofM. Luckily, the UofM loved me too.
I had four tremendous, challenging, inspiring, and unforgettable years here but it wasn't always easy. I earned and maintained an academic scholarship all four years of college. I worked 40 hours per week waiting tables to pay for my cost of living expenses. I engaged with programs and organizations on campus like Frosh Camp, SGA, sorority life, Up Til Dawn, Orientation and so many more. Perhaps most importantly, I connected with upper class first gen students like myself who were willing to show me the ropes. They were the ones who turned the acronyms (RA, SGA, TISL, HD, ACAD, FAFSA, etc) into real words and meaningful experiences that I could pursue. I learned how to ask for help, and how to be strategic and intentional with my college experience. I knew how lucky I was to have it, and I treasured every opportunity I was given. I also learned that it was my duty to pay it forward and to return the patience and generosity shown to me.
My advice for fellow first-gen Tigers is to make the most of every experience, and to ask for help and support along the way. Find a mentor, a champion, an advocate and a friend. Find your passions. Write your own story, and do not place limits on your own possibilities. Celebrate your successes- even if your parents do not understand their significance. You do- and you can share that with them! "Believe that anything is possible for you- you aren't an outsider, a black sheep or an underdog, you are a Memphis Tiger. You are home." You are exactly where you are supposed to be, and I am SO GLAD to share this great university with you.
Sally Parish | 211 University Center | Sally.Parish@memphis.edu | 901.678.8679