The Null Space

Mathematical rambling to the void.

Things I wish I knew as a first-gen academic.

(March 30, 2023)

When my mom found out I wanted to switch my major to mathematics, she didn't talk to me for a day. The silence treatment wasn't out of anger, I think. She needed time to find the right words to - without discouraging me - describe her gloomy image of a math major. This was a difficult task for her. For once, she had never met a successful mathematician, and more importantly, I would be heading into uncharted territory: academia. My dad is the first one in his family to obtain a Bachelor's degree right after the Vietnam War, and I'm the first one in my family to obtain a Master's degree. Additionally, my family was living under the Ontario poverty line, so I would have no safety net if this whole math thing didn't work out. We all thought the only career path for me was to be a professor - I wasn't looking at jobs. I just knew I liked numbers and funny-looking greek letters. 

Luckily, with the help of many people along the way, it ended up working out okay. While I will always pride myself on "figuring it out" by myself, the whole process felt like throwing things to a wall until something sticks. So here I am, giving out big-sister advice to no one on the internet, in hopes of making academia a little more accessible to someone out there.

That is it for now - I will update this list when I have more ideas. My Master's degree was a privilege that wouldn't have been possible without my parents, friends, and my supervisor. The odds were not in my favour - but they made it possible. I am forever grateful for this experience.

Are you also a first-gen academic? Feel free to connect with me, and for more resources, check out the lists below!

Resources for current Western students.

Opportunities/ Scholarships