The First-Gen Roadtrip has officially come to a close and Jasmine, Jenny, Johnathan, and Felipe have all gone their separate ways. A collaboration between Roadtrip Nation and The College Board allowed these four first-generation college students the opportunity to travel the country and interview pioneering leaders who were also the first in their families to go to college. After all was said and done, the road-trippers spent 35 days on the road and were able to collect diverse and affecting personal stories that, taken together, have formed a vast mosaic of inspiration for their paths ahead.
On the final night of their adventure, the group finally chose a team name that encapsulated the theme of their road trip: “#WhyNotUs.” How did this team name come about? During their five weeks together, the road-trippers sought to understand why they specifically were chosen for this opportunity, why they were the first in their families to go to college, why they felt so much pressure to succeed, and why so many people believed in them. Jenny even wrote “WHY US?” on the wall of the RV, baffled about the team’s cherry-picked fortune. But, with the guidance of 20 leaders and 3,000 miles of travel under their belts, the team eventually came to realize, why not them? They realized that they are indeed deserving of the opportunities they have earned and that, armed with the lessons they learned on their trip, they can and will define their own roads in life.
We’ve asked each of the road-trippers to reflect on their journey aboard the Green RV this summer, and here’s what they had to say:
When I got home from the trip, it was so surreal and weird. It was way too quiet, and definitely lacking in company. I honestly think about the road trip every day. I think about the lessons I’ve learned and what I’ve realized about myself along the way. I was so eager to take action that I actually walked into a store near campus and got hired on the spot, and maybe that’s just because of my experience but I really walked in there confidently. I haven’t really let myself get overwhelmed by any sort of money problem I’ve had, and I’ve definitely taken things one day at a time. I still lie down at night, wishing I could hear the generator running or people in the RV shifting in their sleep. Like I said, it’s been way too quiet without my fellow road-trippers around. But as I look back at who I was before the trip, I can’t even believe I’ve come so far. In a way it feels like a huge dream but I know it is one of the most real experiences I’ve ever had.
Just one paragraph to summarize the whole experience? Wow, this is the most difficult challenge of the entire road trip. Our lives will never be the same. We went through a tunnel and held our breaths, not knowing what was going to be on the other side. Some of us screamed, closed our eyes, laughed, and others just said “bring it on!” But at the end, we not only survived–we chiseled away at the rocky mountain that is ourselves to refine what is at the core. We sculpted ourselves with every moment. From Jenny courageously conquering the white water rapids, to Jasmine confidently jumping off the Bridge to Nowhere and smiling, to Johnathan selflessly helping everyone (road-trippers or not) with anything they might need. This Roadtrip awoke us and showed us that the world, while seemingly huge, frightening, and full of unknowns, is also full of hope, inspiration, and magnificence. Though we each walked away having discovered something new about ourselves and the world, we also realized that this journey was merely a part of our greater life adventure. As we trekked thousands of miles in Carl the RV, we also trekked within ourselves and this trek led to discovering parts of the world within ourselves that we never knew existed. Our fires have been ignited, or least the logs have been set in place and we have been given the tools to light it, so I say light away. Sure, you may not know what to major in, you may be afraid to move away from home, you may be afraid to take a risk to do what you love, but after this trip I know–and we all know–that we have what it takes to thrive on our paths and bounce back if we do fall down and scrape our knees. The most important takeaway from this entire experience is that we are not alone. From the leaders we interviewed, to our Roadtrip Family, to our friends and families back home. We are all in this together.
Honestly, I wish the trip had never ended. It was by far the most character-building and life-changing experience…the BEST thing that could’ve ever happened to me hands down! I found things in myself that I knew were there, but the confidence I gained from the trip and people around me just buffed them out. I no longer feel like I’m alone because there are people who share my same struggles and we’ve each helped each other break down walls that held us back. Ask anyone who was there and they’ll tell you that I’ve come a long way since the start of the trip. I left the person I was back in California and picked up the new me in New York. Coming home was so weird. I think about the road trip every chance I get and even catch myself looking over pictures that we took. Driving across the county with a new ‘family’, trying new experiences and foods together, standing up for each other and picking each other up off the ground, meeting leaders from all walks of life–all truly amazing. Most of all I miss my crew, because people like the ones that I’ve come to know and love on this trip are rare and hard to come by. I definitely would not be the person I am had it not been for them. This is only the beginning of the road (see what I did there).
When packing I was eager to get home, thinking of the life that I was missing. But after a couple of hours of being home I missed my road trip family more than anything. This trip meant everything to me and it helped me to grow into a stronger person. For the first time in a long time I enjoyed myself, I relaxed, and I sincerely laughed. Do you know how good it feels to sincerely laugh? I learned that it feels amazing. I learned how to stand up for myself, I learned how to be me and feel free to be myself without fear of judgment from the world. I love and miss the team, and I hope that we will all continue to learn, grow and experience new things.