‘My higher education journey was facilitated by the encouragement and guidance of the people around me. The support that I received provided me with a sense of purpose in my studies and a sense of belonging to the university community.’

(Lisa, FiF student 2016)

Part of my OLT Fellowship is exploring ways to foreground first-in-family ‘voices’ within the university community. In enacting this, I have been lucky enough to have been included in the UOW SALT program (SALT = Student Ambassadors for Learning and Teaching). This program is designed for university staff and learners to work in partnership on key teaching and learning issues. To this end, Lisa has agreed to work alongside me, focussing particularly on developing AV resources that showcase not only FiF students but also, FiF academics and university staff members. How better to welcome and support new students who are first in their families to come to university then by showcasing the stories of those who have preceded them and achieved their degrees. However, an unexpected (but welcome) aspect of this partnership is that Lisa, herself, is first in family and she has agreed to share a little of her story in this week’s blog – I hope you enjoy the read!

Warm regards,


Blog_From the Ground UpMy Experience as a First-in-Family (FiF) Student

Hi, I’m Lisa.

I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong and I’m the first person in my family to attend university.

In my experience, starting university as a First-in-Family (FiF) student came with certain challenges – the biggest being that, for the first time, I couldn’t turn to my parents for advice or guidance about this new stage in my life. I quickly discovered that I would need to be proactive and seek out other sources of information to navigate my way into university. I utilised the knowledge of high school teachers, career advisers and other students and I attended various university open days and information sessions to gain a better understanding of the higher education system.

Once I had started university, I noticed that the support and mentorship of various academics helped to foster my motivation to see my degree through to completion. Over the course of my undergraduate studies, I undertook a number of supervised research projects to gain some practical experience in my field of study. My sustained interaction with academics at the university gave me a better idea about where my degree could eventually take me, which helped to keep me motivated with my studies. I graduated in 2013 and have since started a PhD degree, where the support and mentorship of my academic supervisors remains a vital resource to my success.

My higher education journey was facilitated by the encouragement and guidance of the people around me. The support that I received provided me with a sense of purpose in my studies and a sense of belonging to the university community. As a FiF student, I feel thankful that I was so well supported and owe a large part of my success to this fact. However, I recognise that other students who will face many of the same challenges that I did may not be as fortunate. As FiF students make up such a large proportion of the university cohort, I believe that taking the time to explore the challenges faced by FiF students is necessary to better assist this cohort with their transition to and journey through university.

My own experience as a FiF student has inspired me to become involved in the Student Ambassadors for Learning and Teaching (SALT) program to work on the First-in-Family project, which explores the FiF student cohort experience. I look forward to learning more about FiF students in order to develop resources that better support this cohort and raise their profile within the university community. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend and graduate from university and I want to help ensure future FiF students have the best possible chance of success in their higher education endeavours.



What is SALT?

One of the educational priorities for 2016 is to improve the student voice – to provide more opportunities for students to work alongside UOW staff to share ideas and opinions on how UOW functions. To support this priority, UOW sought to recruit 5 Student Ambassadors Learning & Teaching (SALTs) to work in LTC on some key projects. The successful SALTs were able to decide on the projects themselves and then work with LTC staff to complete them.

The topic areas include:

  • Improving the student voice at UOW
  • Using technology to enhance learning
  • Creating learning spaces
  • Exploring assessment and feedback

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