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We're So Proud of You!
Congratulations on being almost done with the semester! We'd like to acknowledge how difficult it has been for most everyone. Like, exceptionally hard. And while our brains are well trained at showing us where we think we've fallen short, it's so important to be aware of all the successes we've had along the way. Burnout can make this more of a struggle, so if your search for achievements is coming up empty, pull from the examples below. What are you proud of yourself for?

Pro tip: Celebrate the successes and express self-compassion for the rest (e.g., "I would have loved to have made straight A's this semester, but I'm also a human being navigating life in the middle of a global pandemic. So I'm cutting myself some slack.")
  • Found a "quiet" spot to study at home amidst a lively family
  • Met with a professor to discuss ways to do well in the class
  • Met with a tutor or academic coach
  • Went to a study session
  • Made a friend
  • Found a new hobby
  • Got sleep when it was needed
  • Ate at least three meals in the same day
  • Practiced mindfulness
  • Started a paper or project in advance
  • Finished an assignment by the deadline
  • Passed a class you were certain at one point you would fail
  • Sat in the sun on a warm day
  • Exercised
  • Asked for help
  • Stayed connected (for the most part) with friends and family
  • Attended most classes
  • Checked on a friend or family member
  • Did something nice for someone
  • Cared for a pet
  • Made time for self-care
  • Let yourself feel your feelings
Whatever this semester looked like for you, know that we're so proud of you! You got through it the best way you could and that's truly worthy of respect.

Rest up and remember that you've learned important lessons that will help you be even more successful this spring. We're looking forward to cheering you on when you return in January!
Study Sessions This Week
These study sessions are hosted by peer mentors, but there's no agenda other than the one you have for yourself. Use this as a way to meet and study with others and to schedule time to prepare for the end of the semester! Everyone is welcome.
Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2:30-4:30pm
Thursday, Dec. 3, 1:00-3:00pm
Location: Online
Free Daps with TRIO SSS
This has been a semester like no other! Wind down and relax a bit before final exams kick-off. Join TRIO Student Support Services as we celebrate the end of the semester with a special performance by Free Daps, an internationally-known collective that specializes in freestyle rap, music, and comedy. Advance registration is required.

Thursday, Dec. 3, 6pm.

You First Presents Video Recordings
Did you miss any of our workshops this semester? The bonus of having to conduct them virtually is that we could record them. They'll be helpful to review in preparation for spring! 
Overview of You First
Dr. Elizabeth Bambacus, Student Engagement & Summer Studies Administrator, discusses programs, opportunities, and support for VCU's first-gen students. Includes an overview of the peer mentoring program and the student organization.

Translation, Please! Decoding College Lingo
In this interactive discussion, Denisha Scott, formerly the Altria Scholars Progress Coach, explores the impact that college terminology can have on first-generation students and focuses on solutions for a better understanding of the language. There can be many obstacles in college; the language of higher education does not have to be one.

How to be Successful in Online Classes
In this workshop led by Dr. Kim Case, Director of Faculty Success, and Benita Regusters, Academic Coach, students learn about organizational methods, self-motivation, and ways to feel more connected. The speakers also share some of their experiences being first-gen.

His Crazy Plan Worked: How a First-Gen Student Put Himself Through College
Dr. TIm Bajkiewicz, associate professor of broadcast journalism in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, talks about moving himself across the country to work and live on his own hoping to someday go to school--and how it actually happened.

How to Connect with Professors
In this workshop led by Dr. Daphne Rankin, Associate Vice President, Division of Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success, participants learn techniques for communicating with professors, including how to structure that first "office hours" visit. Ever feel like you're intruding on their time? You're actually not! Learn how connecting with your professors can begin a lifetime of support.

Navigating Opinion During an Election Year and Beyond
Jake Khoury, Instructor of Focused Inquiry, discusses the difficulty of truly considering ideas and perspectives other than your own and meaningfully engaging people who hold these contrary ideas and perspectives. This talk hopes to remind you of the significance of considering diverse perspectives while giving you strategies for thoughtfully engaging the ideas of other people.

Making the Most of Academic Advising Appointments
Tanya Wineland, Academic Advisor, School of Business, and Nicolette Zbell, Academic Advisor, Wilder School, discuss how you can create an advising relationship to help you discover, dream about, and design your college path. You'll acquire practical tools and tips for making the most of your appointments.


First-Gen and the 2020 Upheaval: Prioritizing Our Mental Health
Dr. Myriam Kadeba, Interim Director, OMSA, and Senior Staff Clinician, University Counseling Services, discusses the reasons and ways to make your mental health a priority this year. She also talks about how you can find your motivation again and shares her own experiences as a first-gen graduate.

Stop It: You're Not Actually an Imposter
Dr. Sharon Zumbrunn, associate professor in the School of Education, explores how higher education is the perfect ecosystem for breeding imposter syndrome dragons, and she offers strategies for slaying your own personal imposter syndrome dragon. Many first-gen students feel like double-dealing tricksters, wondering, "Do I really belong here?" We're talking about smart people! So why do so many first-geners have impostery beliefs? Discover this answer and more.

Finding and Maintaining Motivation
Although intended for the end-of-semester motivational slow down, this workshop is relevant at any point along the college journey. Kelly O'Connor, counselor education graduate student, discusses where motivation comes from and what it looks like, tips and ideas for staying motivated, ways to overcome burnout, and resources for VCU students.

Navigating Family Dynamics and Finding Support
This workshop was led by Leslie Cohen-Gee, Assistant Professor, Focused Inquiry, and Lynanne Jamison Yndestad, New Student and Family Programs. Having conversations with family about life in college can be challenging as a first-gen student whether you are returning home for break or discussing the ups and downs of online learning from home. Learn how to navigate some of these difficult conversations and get some pro tips for finding support.

Spring 2021 You First Presents Talks
We're busy planning an exciting spring speaker series for you! Topics include the following, with more to come. Watch for the schedule announcement in the January newsletter and on the You First calendar
How to Study in College
Internships and Co-ops
Intersection of First-Gen and BIPOC Identities
Intersection of First-Gen and LGBTQ Identities
Intersection of First-Gen and Low-Income Identities
Preparing for Life After Graduation
Getting Your First Place: Leasing 101
Networking Techniques
Getting Involved with Research
Good luck with finals
and have a wonderful break!

~You First
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