University of Maine First-Gen Voices: Dominique DiSpirito
Hello, my name is Dominique DiSpirito and I am a fourth year political science major and honors college student here at the University of Maine. I’m originally from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, which is where I am now, and I am a first-generation college student.
I often like to say that my first day moving into the University of Maine very much felt like I was being suited up in an astronaut suit, and launched into space. Because the college experience was so new to my family– I was the first student to go to a four-year university right out of high school, and also I was leaving the state, which was very unusual to my family. Most of most of my family stayed local, stayed in Rhode Island or Woonsocket, and I was going four and a half hours away, in Maine.
And so I had gone through this extensive process of applying to colleges, filling out my FAFSA, pretty much by myself. Thankfully I knew that I was “first generation college student” in high school, and that made a huge difference, because I was able to name what I was going through and seek out resources like the educational talent search, which was super helpful in high school.
So I’d done all this preparation, you know, suited up basically, and my whole family showed up to move me in, because this was in 2018. So we had like three, four cars, my aunt and uncle, my mom, my brother, family, friends, all coming together to help me move in.
We didn’t know what would happen, we didn’t know what was going— you know, what college had in store for me. So as a freshman I was learning, and asking a lot of questions, and seeking help from people that looked like they were in an authority role. So, I quickly asked questions of my associate dean, my faculty members, went to office hours. Sometimes felt stupid, sometimes I felt like I was asking questions that other people were in the know about. But that willingness to ask questions went a long way for me.
Especially to get through that learning curve of like, what even are office hours? What’s a healthy work-life balance? Still figuring that one out.
But at the end of the day it was kind of trailblazing. I was able to, in turn, turn around and use this knowledge, and help suit up my other family members who are going into college— like my younger brother, who is starting his first year at URI so I was able to help him a little bit with some application, and some comforting, knowing that you know, it’s not that scary, you will survive, and that experience, that part of who I am is just so cool.