There are several types of first-generation students on the University of Cincinnati’s Uptown campus. Some students are the first members of their families to attend college, while others are the first in their families to be born in the U.S.
On any college campus, between 22 and 77 percent of students can identify as first-generation, or “first-gen,” according to Robert K. Toutkoushian, an education professor at the University of Georgia.
Melat Mohamoud, a fourth-year student studying neuroscience and psychology, is both a first-generation college student and a first-generation American. Her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mekele, Ethiopia, 30 years ago, hoping to fulfill the American dream.
“It wasn’t easy moving to a country with little English, savings, then to leave behind the family and friends in the place you called home,” Mohamoud said. “They wanted to provide a better life for us.”
A self-described “proud child of an immigrant,” Mohamoud believes her parents are living proof that nothing is impossible with enough dedication.
“My parents immigrated to this country and I was born here, so I identify as an American,” she said.
Mohamoud, who plans to graduate in May, is part of the executive board for UC’s African Student Association. As director of student affairs, Mohamoud has been able to meet other African and African-American students on campus, which she describes as being an essential part of celebrating diversity.
“To me, Black History Month is a time where we, members of the black community, come together to celebrate our heritage,” she said. “Where we celebrate our history, diverse cultures and our unity that runs so much deeper than just the color of our skin.”
Giving back to the community is important to Mohamoud, who dreams of one day moving to Ethiopia to use her degree in psychology.
“I read a statistic that said there are over 86 million people in Ethiopia,” she said. “With that said, there are only 50 licensed psychologists in the whole country. This blew my mind, inspired me to make something shake and move to the motherland in the future.”
After spending last summer in Ethiopia, Mohamoud said she finds herself missing the small things — drinking soda from glass bottles, wedding preparations, drinking Buna (traditional Ethiopian coffee) and Bajaj’s (the original Uber).
Mohamoud also discussed how UC helped her to expand her network.
“I think the University of Cincinnati is exclusive — it gives you an opportunity to blend in,” she said. “Being involved in the African-American [Cultural and] Resource Center has helped me meet other African-American [students] on campus, which helped me connect.”
Any students who are interested in learning more about African life on campus should attend the African Student Association Culture Show and dinner March 2 at Tangeman University Center. It will be hosted by entertainer and actor Ebaby Kobby. The dinner begins at 5:30 p.m., and the show begins at 7 p.m.