The first in the family

First-generation student offers her insight on the journey through higher education.


Sol Murgia working on an assignment for class.

Like most first-generation college students, Sol Murgia did not expect her first year of college to take place inside of her childhood bedroom. 

At the beginning of her virtual learning experience, Murgia completed her assignments on top of a stack of old chest drawers. When that became too uncomfortable and made it hard to focus on school work, she saved up enough money from a part-time job to invest in a desk for her bedroom. 

The first-born child of immigrant parents, Murgia was a happy kid with a charismatic laugh and full-tooth smile. Expectations were set high for her and she often experienced pressure to make her parents’ sacrifices well worth their struggles. 

“I always felt like since I was little, I had to be more mature or that I had to turn off some childlike qualities of mine to fit into their standards of maturity, especially when my brother was born,” said Murgia. 

She recognizes this as something many daughters of immigrants go through and said she has also seen it happen to her cousins. Breaking this cycle of what is known as “machismo” is difficult, but Murgia is set on educating her family to see women as equal to the men — especially her brothers. 

From a young age, education was instilled into Murgia and her siblings. Both her mother and father graduated high school, but were forced to enter the workforce almost immediately. Work for them was seen as a necessity to help their families, so there was no time to waste with college. 

“My parents emphasized going to college so that I would not end up working hard labor jobs like them, or not being able to get a job because I did not go to college even though I could do it,” she said.

Taking advantage of the educational opportunities in the United States was important for her since her parents did not get that chance themselves. By pursuing a college degree, she hopes to break her family’s generational struggle of living paycheck to paycheck. 

But maneuvering through college has been a struggle for Murgia being the first in her family to pursue higher education. From applying to college to worrying if she would even have enough money to pay for classes, Murgia has shouldered the challenges on her own. When it came to filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA, she was alone, second guessing every question along the way and wondering if she answered it correctly or not.

Attending community college was not her first choice. She had planned on going straight to a four-year university, but due to unforeseen circumstances, she found herself attending Los Medanos College after she graduated from high school.

“I was sad because I really wanted to leave but I think it ended up working out for the best,” she said. “I feel like I did get more experience and also I know how to be a leader in my house. I am now able to apply my home situation to my outside life.” 

When she started at LMC, Murgia admitted she was winging it with little to no guidance. Then she signed up for a sociology class and met Professor Marco Godinez, who was also a fellow first-generation student. He offered a helping hand to all his students and was able to help guide Murgia on her journey. 

With a clearer vision of what she wanted to get out of college, Murgia declared as a sociology major. She passionately explained that she wants to work in the field of Neurodiversity after having encounters with some people whose brains work differently than what is considered typical. 

“I want to learn about different types of people. I know that I am a first-generation student and am the center of my own universe,” she said. “But, the universe is huge and there are so many different people around us. You cannot live life in your own bubble, you have to go out there and just experience all the different types of people you can run into.”

It has been difficult balancing a mountain of assignments with a 24-hour-a-week work schedule, but Murgia said she has come up with a system to help her stay on track. Inside of a red notebook, she jots down a to-do list and gets them done by order of importance. She also emphasized that it is important to do some self care every night.

Murgia finds that the most difficult aspect of transitioning from in-person to online college is the isolation. She also said discussion boards just do not compare to in-class discussion. 

She added that it feels as if students these days are typing for a grade — doing assignments out of necessity rather than actually learning and retaining the information. It’s more about discipline in completing assignments on time and logging into weekly Zoom sessions. Yet, she sees this pandemic merely as a bump in the road, nothing that will stop her on her path to that college degree. 

Murgia wants other first-generation students to know they are not alone on their higher education journey. Life often happens when you are making plans, she explained — and that’s OK. 

“You might want to plan out your whole life right now but I definitely think it’s important to listen to your gut and take things slow,” she said.“There is a first time for everything and you definitely deserve to enjoy everything you have been working for. Don’t forget to take in the experiences and moments now rather than constantly worrying about the future.”