This month's featured First Gen has embraced her first year of living abroad. Read about her journey in becoming the first in her family to live in another country and miles away from her family.
1. What is your name?
My name is Bridget Lotoft.
2. What is your current occupation?
I am currently working as a Paralegal Specialist in Japan. My previous work experience involves advocacy work within law enforcement and volunteer work with survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
3. What is your education background?
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology with a concentration in Women Studies and Sociology minor. Also, I earned a Master of Science in Criminal Justice.
4. What is your family background?
My mom and dad are both from South Georgia. My dad joined the Navy and as a result, I moved a lot. My parents divorced and we settled in Glen Burnie, Maryland. I grew up in single-parent home where my mother working overnight while I was in high school was normal. Seeing her work hard to make sure we had our basic needs met motivated me to want to help others in similar situations and further my education. I come from a family that has a lot of secrets and from that, it's pretty divisive. So I am working on recreating my own family traditions. Among my siblings, I am the first to finish school, but I have a few cousins who completed college as well.
5. Do you have any "firsts" recognized by your family?
I am the first of my family to move out of the country.
Dear First Gen,
One of my favorite hobbies is traveling. My brother and I have a friendly competition where if either one of us visits a place before the other, the other sibling works overtime to avoid traveling to that location. (My parents are not fans of our "explorer" spirit.)
I have met several first gens who do not own a passport or have used their passport to only travel to their family's birth country. Yes, it was shocking for me to hear, too! Recently, I returned from a trip and enjoyed the culture, the food, beach and also learned how two languages were simultaneously taught in a classroom and reinforced at home.
For example, my friend and I were in the post office mailing postcards to our friends and family back home. My friend asked the postal worker how to say pen in their language and she responded. Another customer, older woman, joined the conversation and began singing a song that taught her certain words in both languages including the pen. Another customer overheard her and sang along and then the postal worker chimed in and sang along, too. The young postal worker confirmed a decades-old classroom instruction still being taught and had not been forgotten by the two older women.
A fellow first gen has written the guest post below:
As a first-generation law student, I was surprised that so many of my classmates were children of attorneys. Many of them had worked at their parents’ law firms prior to starting law school and they had established connections. I, on the other hand, didn’t have the skills or a single connection to lean on when I entered law school. But I have found that a love for travel is a great way to connect with people.
There are so many reasons to study abroad. You will make friendships that last a lifetime, you will experience a new country as a local, and you will broaden your horizons more than you thought possible.
Your study abroad experience is also something that will enhance your ability to connect with people throughout your life. When you go on interviews or to networking events, many other professionals will have traveled extensively, and your study abroad experience will give you talking points and help you make connections with people who share your passion for traveling.
As excited as I was to study abroad in my second year of law school, I was even more excited to head to the “motherland.” My relatives left Italy in the 1920s, but their traditions remained strong and have influenced my life in many ways. Although I had been to Europe once before, I had never been to Italy.
Dear First Gen,
Joy Weber (a featured first gen) shared a piece of advice for first gens that want to meet people outside of their network: Consider reaching out to people via LinkedIn, even if you’ve never been introduced to them before. This is a great idea!
You may have met someone at an event that you have finally found the courage to attend, or overheard someone else talking about this individual. In either situation, this person piqued your curiosity and you want to learn more about them, but you do not have a way to contact them. When it comes to individuals you don’t know, reach out to them for an in-person informational meeting. If the person has a busy calendar and you are unable to coordinate a meeting time, then you can opt for a phone conversation. When that’s the case, LinkedIn is a good place to start! A friend called @LinkedIn, "Facebook for Professionals".
Log in to your account (or create an account), and then perform a search of the person’s name to find out if you have mutual contacts. If you don’t, that’s OK—you may still be able to network with that individual. It is scary and you may not know where to begin but let me suggest two approaches.
Dear First Gen,
Have you always been told to be patient? I’m betting the answer to that question is a resounding YES!
Do you often have to tell others to have patience? Again, probably a YES!
Are you good at exercising patience? Well, that may be a different story!
Tell me: How do you exercise patience?
Dear First Gen,
First Lady Michelle Obama launched the "Reach Higher Initiative" to motivate every high school student to further their education at a community college, four-year college or university or professional training program. April 26, 2016 was designated as "College Signing Day" in the U.S. for all to declare where they plan to attend in the fall, or wear college gear from the school they currently attend or graduated from.
Recently, I had a conversation with a young person who sought my advice on the best college that would make them more attractive for a Staffer position in a legislator's office. The importance of selecting a college cannot be overstated; it is the prime location to connect with the right people who can teach you the precise steps to become the professional you aspire to be. This particular student narrowed the college choices down to two institutions. They would deliver different outcomes, but they were having a hard time determining which one would lead to achieving the ultimate goal. Here's what I recommended for them.