Unbound scholar
May 23 2013

Sponsored youth in India becomes first-generation college student

Family in India

Bernard, third from left, with his family in front of their home. Bernard is a first-generation college student among his family and those in his village.

Being a first-generation college student within your family is definitely worthy of applause. But being a first-generation college student in your family and your entire village deserves a standing ovation.

Bernard is a sponsored youth from Bhagalpur, India, who is the first person from his family and his village to attend college. Here’s his story about the academic and social challenges he’s overcome during his academic career.

It takes about 4 hours to travel from my family’s home to my college in Bhagalpur.

I travel one hour to reach a railway station. From there I catch the train to go to Bhagalpur. If I get on the express train I will reach Bhagalpur in two-and-a-half hours, but if I get on a passenger train, it may take nearly three hours before we arrive.

Since it takes me nearly half a day to travel, I live near the school when class is in session.

My parents do not have any professional education. I am the first in my home to attend college.

I have been receiving CFCA sponsorship since I was in second standard. The sponsorship support gave me the opportunity to study.

It also helped my mother, Teresa. She joined a CFCA mothers group and took out a loan to purchase a few pigs and hens to rear. It has improved our family income and helped provide financial assistance for my two younger sisters’ education.

When I was ready to go away to school, I explained the situation to my parents and told them that I don’t have anyone to teach me here in our village. Once I go to Bhagalpur to study, I know some friends and older students who can guide me there.

My parents agreed and allowed me to study and live in Bhagalpur.

I wake up at 4 a.m. every morning and get ready for class.

The class is from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and I study physics and chemistry. After this class, we have breakfast and go to another class until 2 p.m., when I come back to my room and take lunch.

From 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. I attend math class and afterwards I spend time with my friends for a few hours. In the evening I again study my class subjects.

I am planning to graduate with a degree in history, and I am also planning to prepare for bank exams.

I changed my major to the arts from science because the expenses would increase and it would be difficult for my family to educate my two younger sisters.

If I do well in my bank exam, I would prefer to serve in a rural area because I can guide and help those in the community.

Back home, I am the oldest among all the sponsored children in our area, and at that time I felt that I studied a lot.

However, compared with my classes now, I feel like my previous classes don’t even compare to my middle school.

At first I was frightened to go to college in Bhagalpur because I thought that the other students were from a wealthy background and had more knowledge then me.

But after two months I came to know more students, like me, who came from far away places to study.

I worked hard to compete with the other students. Slowly I gained confidence and I completed my intermediate level with good marks.

I am proud because I am the first person from my village to study in Bhagalpur.

When I meet people from my village, they say “you are the first person studying in Bhagalpur, the second best city in Bihar state. So work hard and study well.”

When I hear this, I feel very happy.

My sponsors write me letters and ask about my education. I feel very happy to read those letters and reply back.

Because of my sponsor’s help I have the opportunity to complete my education. Without their support I may not have come to this stage. I am very thankful for them.

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