First Generation Students

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If you are a first generation student at Notre Dame, you already know a thing or two about being a great pioneer. At Notre Dame International, we welcome all pioneers to supplement their time at Notre Dame with an international experience that can significantly advance their personal, professional, and intercultural goals. Whether through a summer program, a semester or year-long program, or any number of research or internship experiences, we hope that our office can offer you engaging, life-altering experiences that have become a signature of the Notre Dame experience.

A first generation student is defined as “an individual both of whose parents did not complete a baccalaureate degree; or in the case of any individual who regularly resided with and received support from only one parent, an individual whose only such parent did not complete a baccalaureate degree”. While it can be very exciting to be the first in one’s family to have the opportunity to attend college, we recognize that some first generation students may face additional challenges that some of their “non first generation” peers may not. In the scope of Study Abroad, some of these challenges involve international travel, the associated costs of studying abroad, and resistance from family members to your decision to study abroad. This page is meant to encourage all first generation students at Notre Dame to consider expanding their horizons through a study abroad experience.

Study Abroad has compiled information regarding the selection of programs, questions to ask yourself, tips, and additional resources. We encourage you to contact a Study Abroad program director if you have program specific questions. To discuss your personal questions or concerns, reach out to NDI Study Abroad subject-matter advisors, Sam Juarez and Rafael Guerra.

Selecting a Program

Regardless of background, most students at Notre Dame will ask themselves sometime along their four years if they should study abroad. Our institution consistently ranks as one of the leaders in the nation in sending students abroad, and studying abroad has become an integral part of the Notre Dame experience. While you should feel no pressure to study abroad just for the sake of studying abroad, you should seriously consider the tangible benefits of studying abroad, and realize that doing so does not remove you from the Notre Dame experience -- rather, it makes it more complete and special. 

While some programs can indeed be competitive, either due to the number of applications or limited capacity of the program, we are committed to making studying abroad accessible to everyone. If you feel your GPA has not truly reflected your potential, or if any personal circumstances or a rough first semester have impacted your performance, please let us know in your application questionnaire, or schedule a one-to-one meeting with us. Sometimes, a study abroad experience is exactly the sort of inflection point that marks the beginning of an upward trajectory for many students. Your GPA is just one factor in the Study Abroad decision process.

Questions to Ask Yourself

As you think about studying abroad, here are some questions you may find helpful to ask yourself as you apply:

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  • How will I explain studying abroad to my family if they are skeptical of it?
  • How will I feel if I am the only first generation student in my study abroad cohort?
  • Are there financial considerations I have to take into account for this decision?
  • Do I know who to contact if I am confused about studying abroad or worry about a particular aspect of my application?

The answers to these questions will vary from person to person. Nonetheless, they provide a good starting point for discussion:

  • Family resistance: It may be helpful to inform your family that over 75% of Notre Dame students have some form of international learning experience during their four years. Our programs are not an extended vacation; rather, they serve as an extension of the values and learning outcomes that brought you to Notre Dame. Many students engage in unique internship and research opportunities abroad that they could not have experienced on campus. Additionally, a unique study abroad experience will enrich your professional background and help you in your future career search.
  • Being the only first generation student abroad: To some students, being the only first-generation student in a program could be alienating or uncomfortable. We want you to feel at home while abroad so you can make the most out of your experience. To that end, if you feel this could be an issue for you while abroad, please come to our office to discuss your concerns. We can put you in touch with similar students who have studied abroad and can introduce you to local staff and faculty members who can help you with any issues that may arise when you are on-site.
  • Financial Considerations: Pages on our website have been designed to specifically address financial needs for students. You can access them here. If your questions are not answered on these pages, please let us know.

Additional Resources

In preparation for study abroad, the following resources may be of help: