July 16, 2016

First-generation and low-income experience

Columbia Class Confessions opens dialogue about first-generation and low-income students' experiences on campus, students say.


For Toni Airaksinen, BC ’18, a class discussion on art in her first-year English class turned into a reminder of the challenges she faced as a low-income student.

“Until New York, I had never been out of Cleveland because there’s no way I could afford a plane ticket,” Airaksinen said. So when the class began to discuss their favorite exhibits at the Louvre Museum in France, Airaksinen felt the disconnect.

“I was really confused so I raised my hand and asked, ‘What's the Louvre?’ and my professor said, ‘What do you mean you don't know what the Louvre is?,’” she said.

“This was my second week of class in New York, and I just didn’t know yet,” she said. “And I felt the whole class turn to face me, which was mortifying because I’d basically outed myself as the lower-income, unprivileged, uncultured student in the classroom.”

Airaksinen later channeled those feelings into Columbia University Class Confessions, an open and anonymous platform on Facebook that allows low-income and first-generation students to share their experiences. The page, which launched on March 22, has already received more than 411 student submissions on topics including homelessness, debt, and feelings of anger, depression, and guilt, along with over 3,373 likes.  

Airaksinen, who is a member of Columbia First-Generation Low-Income Partnership, said she was inspired to create the page after attending the First-Generation Ivy League Students Conference at Brown University, where she learned about Stanford University and the University of Chicago’s Class Confessions pages.

You can find the full article here

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