First Year, First Generation: Josee’s Diary

We’ve been following a group of first-generation college students from Delaware as they transition to higher ed. In addition to running periodic stories about their journeys, we’ve helped each student keep an audio diary.

The below diary is from Josee Lazarre, a freshman at Delaware Technical and Community College in Georgetown, Delaware. You can meet Josee and read more about the first year, first generation project here.


June 22: It’s my race

Hi, my name is Josee Lazarre. I’m from Haiti. Yay. I moved in the United States when I was 12, six years ago. When I came I repeated seventh grade because I didn’t know English and I didn’t bring my school documentation. So I had to start all over. ..It was really hard. It was really hard. People would make fun of me. I would get so mad I would call my mom and say I never wanna go back to school because it’s so bad and I don’t understand the language. But she would give me some advice. She would tell me, “Hang in there. Everything will be fine.” Coming here is a blessing because my parents didn’t have a chance to make it as far as I did. And the thought that I’m going to college is really big for me as a first-generation college student. My brother went to college last year so I got a little bit of help. But still, it’s my race. It’s mine. I have to do it. It’s my battle—not his, not theirs.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

July 28: Excitement builds

Hi. Josee here. I just wanted to share some really exciting news. About a couple of weeks ago I went and registered for my classes, took my photo ID. With a lot of thinking, a lot of consideration, I decided first to major in Spanish. Then when I move to the main campus, which will be in about two years, I will take all my prerequisites for nursing, graduate from my major and come back to school for one-and-a-half years and get my bachelor’s in RN. Which means in five-and-a-half years I’ll have two bachelor’s degrees. One for Spanish because I’d love to be a translator and one for nursing which is my dream. I’m really excited. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. But I know everything’s gonna work in my favor.

August 3: I bombed…

I haven’t really done anything regarding college except the placement test, which I bombed…The placement test was really hard. It was for math. I didn’t take it seriously and that reflect highly on my scores. I got two choices. I can either re-take it, which I have to spend at least 5 hours studying for it and I don’t have time, so I don’t think i’m gonna do that. And my other option is take a quiz first day of class. And if I get four or more questions right I’m gonna get tested out of the class. I hope I do that, because I’m not gonna get credit for the class and I don’t really like that. 

[Editor’s note: Josee did not pass her quiz the first day of class and was required to stay in remedial math.]

September 17: I don’t know how other people do it

Funny story, I’ve been going to the wrong English class for the past three weeks now…never realized that…until yesterday…Luckily, today was the last free/drop add class. I went early as possible to drop out the other class and stay in the  one I’m currently in. Thankfully everything worked out right.

Besides school, I’ve been working. Really hard. About 30 hours a week. It’s really hard to keep up with school and work…I don’t really even have time to study. And I’m like how am I going to balance work and school? I don’t know, like…my number one priority right now is school, of course. I hope I can do both. I don’t know how other people do it. 

September 29: A tale of two tests.

I had my first test in Spanish. I did pretty good. I could’ve done better. I had a 94. I was disappointed. I was hoping for an 100, really. I took my first test in math and I bombed it. I can re-take it and hopefully get  a C. That’s the best I can get since I failed the first time. They have a math lab open every Tuesday and Thursday. I’m making plans to go every Thursday in between my break so I can work on my math skills. Hopefully they improve because it’s not gonna get any easier. If I’m doing bad now what are the chances I’m gonna do better on the next test?

November 4: A meditation on procrastination

For this audio diary I’m going to talk about procrastination. It’s getting worse, worse. Oh my gosh, it’s crazy. For example, I have this paper I was supposed, that was supposed to be due like two weeks ago. But the professor keeps changing the date—twice already. Guess what? I still haven’t got it started yet. Three to five pages. And what do I have? Four sentences, which is not good—not good at all.That’s when you do really bad and get really ugly grades. I’m trying my best to get over it and be the good student I used to be.

November 11: Talkin’ parents

Like with school they ask me questions: How am I doing? They want to know how I’m doing and stuff like that. But even if i try to tell them, especially my mom, how i got a C on a test, she’s gonna give me that loooong, long lecture about now failing and how I’m gonna pay for it later. I’m like OK. Even if I’m not doing too good I choose not talk to her.

November 24: An anniversary of sorts

Well, this is our first week off since the semester has started. I’m a little happy to have some time off—like sleep more, get more rest, and work on my tons of homework I have to do. And study for finals, which is really overwhelming.

I can’t believe this time last year I was applying for college, here and there getting letters of recommendation. And now one year later, here am I–studying for finals, getting nervous, procrastinating, all that. It’s crazy. Oh my gosh I can’t believe it’s one year already since I started this journey.

December 9: The end approaches

College is feeling more real these days that finals is coming up…and papers due…and classes to study for. Really you don’t have a lot of time especially if you’re working. And it’s not just one class. It’s multiple classes that you have to worry about. It feels like it’s been forever. Like a year in high school. But it’s only been a couple months and it’s about to end. Half of my first year in college is almost over. And…I dunno….hopefully i do good and pass all four of them. Hopefully. Winter break starts next week. And I’m really looking forward to the spring semester. I think it’s gonna be fun and more challenging. I hope I do better than this semester. I’m gonna be more prepared and I’m gonna know what to expect.

December 30: Becoming stronger

Fall semester 2015 was good overall. It was good. I feel like I became stronger. I became more confident in myself—which I think is really good. But whenever I have a big paper my self-esteem goes down and I always doubt myself. But I always know I can do it and I can get it through and accomplish my goals because I can do anything I set my mind into. I hope I can do better even though I passed all my classes. One I barely passed. Anthropology I passed with a C minus. That’s the least I could have done to pass that class. Nightmares. I couldn’t even sleep to check my grades. I’m like oh my gosh I’m gonna fail I’m gonna fail. I passed English with a B. Spanish with an A. Yay yay yay. Math with a B. And Freshmen year experience I passed. It’s a fail, pass class. That was easy.

January 21: Boredom

Well everything is going fine. Break is fine. I’m ashamed to say I’m just bored. I wanna go back. I wanna go back to school already. Oh my gosh I can’t believe I’m saying that. I’m gonna regret it. When school comes back and I’m gonna be like Oh my gosh I wish break was longer. It’s only a few weeks left to go.

February 3: Looking forward

Well it’s been a long break. Long. And maybe boring. But it was good to relax and rest a little bit. And now only two days left before spring semester. I’m just hoping for the best. I hope I do better than I did last semester. and hopefully not get into the wrong classes like I did. I’m looking towards exciting stuff. New experiences. New classes. I just hope everything goes well.

March 1: A proud citizen

I think the most interesting thing that has happened to me recently is getting my citizenship. I applied for it in November and everything was completed recently, last month. I always wanted to do it. Not that I have any plans to go back to Haiti or anything. So I’m still here for now. I can only talk about the present. Who knows what the future holds?

March 14: No bueno

I regret staying in Spanish because I don’t like it. I don’t like. Sometimes I don’t like going to class. I don’t like the way she teaches. And I don’t try anymore. But I’m really excited about psychology and sociology.

March 31: Time flies

First semester versus second semester, I think they’re totally different. When I started in the fall I knew nothing. Of course you have to ask questions if you don’t know anything. But like I had that fresh mind from high school. Now I feel…I’m like is this second semester or second year of college? I always get confused because I’m more comfortable now. I can figure out stuff on my own. But next year’s gonna be different. And I’m worried about next year already.

April 12: You have to take the first step

When I have a challenge or fail a test I’ll study harder, take better notes, ask questions or try to make a friend who can help me. Just like two weeks ago I didn’t do so good in math and I’m trying to re-take it soon. And I’m trying to study. Make better sense of stuff I didn’t get the first time. Sometimes I don’t really like to ask questions in class so I’ll stay after class and ask the instructor. In that way I think it’s the same thing I’d do in high school. It’s just like you have to take the responsibility. You have to take the first step, I would say, to get the help. So I think that’s the main difference.

April 27: The same thing over and over

Well, nothing new is really happening this week. It’s like the same thing over and over every day almost. Except, ooo, it’s getting real. Finals are coming up. I only have three finals: psych, sociology, and math. I’m a little nervous. I don’t know. I’m a little nervous about math more.But yes. I know I’m gonna pass all my classes, it’s just, I’m just nervous.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal