First Generation Students Abroad

What it means to be a first-generation college student might vary across U.S. institutions. Generally speaking, a first-generation student is a student whose parents did not complete a four-year college degree. Sometimes, students with parents who completed a four-year degree at an institution outside the U.S. are considered first-generation as well.

Read student's testimonials!

So, if you are the first in your family to attend college, it likely means you are the first to consider studying abroad. As everything that is new, this recently discovered territory of academic opportunities in another country can lead to some reservations for students and their family. But do not worry, we are here to help you and your family navigate this new information.

To get you started, here are some things to consider and questions to ask yourself when looking at education abroad programs:

  • Since I am the first in my family to study abroad, who will help me plan my study abroad experience?
  • How will I talk about the possibility of studying abroad with my family? How can I explain the benefits of studying abroad to them?
  • How will I finance my time abroad?
  • Think about the location and duration of the program:
  • How will the distance from my family impact my education abroad experience?
  • Would I feel more comfortable being somewhere close or somewhere farther away?
  • How about the local culture? Would I be comfortable in a culture completely different from what I am used to for an extended period of time?
  • Think about the length: Will I be comfortable being away for a whole semester or academic year? Would a short-term program be a better fit?
  • How will you stay in contact with family and friends while abroad?
  • How will you incorporate your experiences abroad when you return to UWL?

Start by doing some research and talking to your family based on the list above. You and your family can also check our page dedicated to parents & family. To learn more about the education abroad process and programs offered at UWL, we encourage you to attend an Education Abroad 101 session, attend our Education Abroad Fair, and/or schedule an appointment with our office. We are here for you!

Resources

First Generation Students Study Abroad Guide 

First Generation Students Traveling Abroad- Diversity Abroad

Taking Advantage of Resources as a First Generation Student

The First in my Family to Study Abroad

Student's Testimonials

Cody

Cody

Peru
Archaeological Studies
  • a 1st generation student
  • As a 1st generation student, the idea of attending a university always scared me. However, I knew it would have to be done to live my dream. On a sick day in first grade, I watched VHS copies of the Indiana Jones films. Like countless kids, I proclaimed that would be me one day. Fast forward to third grade; for our school Mardi Gras celebration, our class decided to inform our peers on the culture and history of Peru. The experience planted a seed of an interest in the Andes Mountains. Since that faithful year, I have always been infatuated with the region and working in it. My passion drove me to do just that this past summer. My family had no experience to help us through this challenge, but we came together and tried our best. Traveling and working abroad was a completely new experience that required the use of all the life experience I had. Be it daily tasks or living in a new culture, aspects of my upbringing I forgot about came forward and guided me through. We all have these blueprints inside and can successfully travel abroad; we just need to take the chance.

Ma Lee

Ma Lee

South Korea
Cultural Anthropology and Professional Communication
  • a Hmong-American, 1st generation student

  • I identify as a first-generation Hmong-American. I am currently double majoring in Cultural Anthropology and Organizational and Professional communication. During my junior year, I studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea. The thought of studying abroad has always attracted me and I knew that I was going to study abroad one way or another. As a first-generation Hmong American and being extremely close to my family, it was very challenging to push myself out of my comfort zone and follow through with my goal. Being away from my family for four months caused some anxiety. I was completely alone and experiencing new cultures, a new way of life, and a new language. But, I could not have been happier. I was able to meet amazing people from all over the world and learn about myself. Every second while studying abroad was a learning experience and it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I highly encourage anyone who is interested in studying abroad to reach out to International Education & Engagement to learn more. There is no doubt in my mind that studying abroad is highly beneficial.

Alivia

Alivia

France
French & Sociology
  • an Asian-American, 1st generation student

  • I chose to study abroad the spring semester of my sophomore year and I believe that was the best choice I have made at UWL. I am a French major so studying in a Francophone country was a must for me. As a first-generation student, beginning the process to study abroad was quite intimidating and challenging, but not impossible and before I knew it, I was on a plane to Caen, France! I was so excited to get started and once I got settled into my new university (l'université de Caen), I was able to meet new people and make friends from around the world. I loved exploring the centre-ville (downtown) and taking walks around the river and castle that were there. The hype about french pastries and cheese is true! I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to live independently in a community and culture that I never experienced before; it is truly the best educational experience anyone can partake in. I learned so much about myself and how resilient I am as an individual. I learned to step outside of my comfort zone and to embrace new experiences. I also learned a little French, too naturellement. I am so thankful that I was given this opportunity and for the guidance and support that the IEE provided me. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I believe everyone should take advantage of if they can!

Sydney

Sydney

Australia
Microbiology & Chemistry
  • a 1st generation student

  • I always dreamed of visiting Australia so when I was presented with the opportunity to study and live over there my junior year, I was ecstatic. The unique flora and fauna that Australia has was especially appealing to me as it tied to my interest in microbiology and chemistry. Being a first-generation study abroad student I was mostly on my own with figuring out how to set up a new life across the world. Even before I arrived in the country, I was testing my problem-solving skills and independence. Every task I encountered on my journey helped me establish stronger relationships with the local people, further improving my communication skills. Adjusting to the change wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. Everyone was very welcoming and I was able to make many lifelong mates over there. Study abroad helped me become a more well-rounded person, academically and socially. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I encourage any first-generation student to take the leap and study abroad because it's not as daunting as it appears. 

Tori

Tori

Spain
Spanish Education
  • a 1st generation student

  • As a 1st generation college student and only child, the transition into college has been filled with so many questions and decisions. I had no idea what to expect, what to do, and how to do it, but here I am – year three, and loving every minute of it! Regardless of all my uncertainties as a first generation and only child, I still chose to study abroad in Sevilla, Spain for the Fall semester, and it was the best decision I ever made. I know everyone says that, but that’s because it’s the truth. It’s the truth because I can say that I have learned so much about myself, a different culture, learned another language, and formed relationships that I will cherish forever. If you think studying abroad is something that you want to do, or are interested in learning more about, contact the Study Abroad office with any questions you have. They have all the answers and pamphlets on different study abroad options. And, if you do choose to study abroad – you won’t regret it. You will be embarking on the greatest adventure of your life.

Carly

Carly

Slovakia
Spanish & Communications
  • a 1st generation student

  • I identify as a first-generation college student. When trying to choose where I wanted to study abroad, I felt overwhelmed with all the choices until I came across an opportunity that provided guidance by UWL professors, while still working cross-culturally in a real business situation. Working for a global company in a different country provided many opportunities and challenges. I enjoyed learning about the Slovak culture and how they do business in their country. As a first-generation student, I had no idea what to expect. Going abroad for a month without my family was scary, but also exciting and defiantly a huge learning experience. One of my biggest takeaways from this experience was having the ability to work closely with Slovak students, collaborating daily on new ideas and learning what life was like in their country. From education, to day to day activities, there was always a new experience I was adapting to. Looking back on my time in Slovakia, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go abroad. It opened my eyes to a whole new part of our world, being exposed to a new culture and opportunities I am beyond thankful for. I encourage anyone interested in studying abroad for a shorter program to inquire about the International Business Consulting Program.

Elli

Elli

Slovakia
Business Management & Sustainable Business
  • a 1st generation student

  • As a 1st generation student, I participated in the University of Wisconsin La Crosse’s Global Consulting Program in Bratislava, Slovakia. Through this program we worked in intercultural teams to develop a solution to our assigned project charges. Specifically, my team preformed a climate change audit for an international accounting firm. For me, this project helped further develop my time management, professionalism, and networking skills. We also had some free time while abroad, and we used this to travel to nearby cities/countries, go on a mining tour, explore castles, and to spend more time with the Slovak students. Personally, my favorite experience on this trip was when all the students went to Banska Stiavnica for the weekend. In the end, this program gave me a deeper insight into the international business world as well as an endless amount of connections with business professionals. In the short three weeks that I was there, I developed so many new friendships with both UWL students and Slovak students. I would highly recommend this experience for all business students, because for me, it was a trip of a lifetime.