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Pioneer Interview – Daimy

Finding Communities of Belonging as a First-Generation Student

Geschreven en uitgevoerd door – Siya Sithamparanathan
Geredigeerd door – Kevin Willems

Welkom bij een nieuw format waar we University Pionieers laten interviewen door Pioneers. Siya is zo lief geweest ons haar schrijftalenten te lenen en jullie onze eerste blogpost in de serie te presenteren. Ze is met Daimy uit onze community gaan zitten om haar verhaal als eerstegeneratiestudent bij UP-Community te delen. Zou je ook geïnterviewd willen worden, of zelf een interview willen afnemen? Neem dan contact met ons op. Veel plezier met lezen!

First-generation students face unique challenges when entering higher education and may not immediately feel a sense of belonging once they commence their study programmes. University Pioneers offer students, staff and alumni an opportunity to create a community that fosters a sense of belonging through the shared experience of being a first-generation student. UP Community provides students with a range of initiatives to connect, socialise and receive support as they continue along their educational trajectory at Utrecht University and beyond.

One of the many members of the UP community is Daimy, a first-generation Liberal Arts student majoring in Computer Sciences. We met during a chilly winter afternoon in December at De Vagant by the Science Park to have a chat about her experiences as a first-generation student and a member of the UP Community. As we sat down in the living-room, or ‘huiskamer’, we started chatting about how Daimy initially came across the UP Community. Taking a moment to reflect, Daimy explained that after meeting with her study advisor, she spent time scouring through UU-webpages to look at initiatives and networks offered by the university. Eventually she came across the UP-Community webpage which piqued her interest, and she signed up to be a member. Although first-generation students are a diverse group of people, Daimy recognised herself in the challenges faced by many first-generation students. She had experienced difficulty finding a sense of community, as she had made the switch from the field of social sciences to exact sciences. Additionally, she went from a university of applied sciences (HBO) to a research university (WO), which posed a different set of challenges. The UP Community and its initiatives were therefore a welcome opportunity to find a sense of belonging, with Daimy seeking “more of a community within the university to connect myself with”.

Although Daimy has yet to attend activities organised by the UP Community, other initiatives, such as the mentorship programme, have provided her with support for educational and professional aspirations. As she reflected on the wishes to continue her studies within the field of biomedical sciences and the challenges of being a woman in STEM, Daimy pointed out the following about her mentor: “It was nice to have someone in this field who was also a woman and further along in her career to look up to, to ask questions”. Being able to see her own ambitions reflected in her mentor’s career as a postdoctoral researcher has been important for strengthening Daimy’s confidence in her own academic endeavours, noting that “if she can do it, I can do it too”.

As we discussed the experiences of switching programmes, it also became clear that more practical difficulties that we all face during our initial years of studying was useful knowledge to pass on to others. Think of: How to use BlackBoard, where to find cheap books for courses, and finding articles for coursework, etcetera. Throughout our conversation it became clear that Daimy feels a sense of responsibility towards future students who could learn from her own experiences. Her involvement with the Girls Club WIN initiative exemplifies this: Through the programme, high school girls are invited to visit the university and become acquainted with the STEM-disciplines along with trying their hand at conducting experiments.

Daimy’s involvement with various initiatives from the UP-community to the Girls Club WIN, as well as outside academic contexts in relation to her connection to the LGBT-community in Utrecht, have certainly fostered a sense of belonging. Reflecting on her involvement with the UP Community up until now, Daimy mentioned that she would like to make use of her own experiences by eventually becoming a mentor for other first-generation students herself. As we discussed the importance of finding communities where we belong and reflected on the connections that she had established over the years, Daimy noted that even though she knows many people nowadays, and that “there’s always a friendly face” around, she would like to become more acquainted with members of the UP community and their experiences. On this note our conversation slowly came to an end, with the wonderful suggestion of meeting up with fellow first-generation students for a study session accompanied with coffee for community members to get to know each other.


Je bent altijd welkom om de UP-Community WhatsApp groepen te gebruiken om bijeenkomsten te organiseren of vragen te stellen. Later dit jaar zal UPC weer evenementen organiseren. Blijf tot die tijd elkaar vooral opzoeken!

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