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‘I made it.’: Minh Le shares experience as first-generation college student


For many first-generation students, attending college can be a stressful experience. However, for psychology senior Minh Le, it makes the journey all the more empowering. Le, a first-generation student from Scottsboro, Alabama, has proven that despite the challenges, first-generation students can find their place on Auburn’s campus.

Being a first-generation student, Le has experienced the challenges of the college journey first-hand. The new environment, raised stakes and potential absence of familial experience can make earning a degree even more difficult. However, Le stresses the importance of taking on opportunities and making each experience meaningful.

“I made it. It's difficult to say that you went to college. It's difficult to say that I did something that many people don't get to do. But I also consider it an opportunity to utilize something as important as a college education,” said Le. “But it’s also important to go easy on yourself. Being a first-generation student, you might not have had that support and guidance. I didn't when I first entered college, but just go easy on yourself. Life will always throw little obstacles at you; it will never be easy, but you can always make it worthwhile.”

The Auburn Family is ingrained in campus tradition, something that Le took note of and ultimately drove him to attend Auburn. In addition to the welcoming culture, Le took advantage of scholarship opportunities offered through the university.

“I wanted to be somewhere that was close to home and also having that family community. I always heard about the Auburn Family and I thought, ‘Maybe I should give it a try,’” said Le. “I also received a bunch of opportunities to attend college through the scholarships that I received. It’s been a great experience for me just to have that opportunity of attending a college through the experiences and opportunities they gave me.”

As a psychology major, Le is exposed to and works with several mental health issues and the stigma behind them. Growing up with individuals grappling with mental health challenges and the pervasive stigma within his cultural heritage, Le hopes to use their education to effect positive change within the community.

“I've always been interested in psychology. I knew some people who were affected by mental health issues growing up. Within my culture, there's a lot of mental health stigma,” said Le. “Usually the people in my community didn't get the mental health help that they needed and they didn't get that support. Recognizing that, I wanted to make a change within my community.”

Outside of his success inside the classroom, Le is involved in several on-campus organizations, including the Vietnamese Student Association, Camp War Eagle, Psi Chi, Alpha Epsilon Delta and the Office of Inclusion and Diversity. Le credits his involvement opportunities for helping him find his place on campus.

“With my experiences outside of the classrooms, this is where I found out about the Auburn family. Initially, I was nervous as a freshman about not finding my community, not finding the people that I relate to, people that I can talk to,” said Le. “Joining these organizations showed me that Auburn calls it the Auburn Family for a reason. You will find your family here. You will find your community.”

Auburn has several programs and services that support first-generation students throughout campus. Le emphasizes the significance of seeking services that provide academic and professional development resources, including the Cross-Cultural Center for Excellence and the Tiger Excellence Scholars Program through the Office of Inclusion and Diversity.

“There are a lot of centers and organizations that provide you with all the academic resources you need. Being a first-generation student, it’s a completely different environment,” said Le. “Having those resources provided to you as a student is very impactful on shaping your moment here.”

Learn more about psychology in the College of Liberal Arts.

Tags: Students Psychological Sciences

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