A First-Generation USF Student Experience

By Jessica Ulett

Clement Jean Jacques will be the first person in his family to get a college degree.

Jean Jacques is from Boca Raton, Florida, and was born to Haitian parents. His parents wanted him to stay close to home but he wanted to experience college on his own.

“I just had to make sure that I apply on time,” said Jean Jacques. “They didn’t know what I was doing, I had to look up the colleges.”

Many of his friends from high school were talking about applying to USF, so he decided to take a look himself. He toured the campus with his dad and they both loved it. It was only four hours away from home.

Jean Jacques is currently a senior majoring in business analytics and information systems at USF.

“I originally started with industrial engineering,” said Jean Jacques. “And realized my junior year that I don’t want to do engineering anymore.”

Jean Jacques’ parents wanted him to major in engineering or become a doctor or lawyer. However, they were supportive of his decision to change his major as long as he was happy and could be financially stable.

He is the youngest out of three kids. His two older siblings attended college at one point, but they dropped out and never received degrees.

“I just wanted something different,” said Jean Jacques. “The fact that I was going to be the first person to have it just made me not want to quit.”

USF bulls outside of the Marshall Student Center.

The hardest part of leaving home for Jean Jacques was adjusting to food differences. At home, he was able to get homecooked Haitian meals. He quickly realized that he was unable to cook and there was no authentic Haitian food near him.

“Leaving behind my parents and my brother and my sister, you know, I’ve lived with my family my whole life,” said Jean Jacques. “And then I had to just leave and go be on my own, it was hard.”

One of the best resources Jean Jacques found on campus was Career Services. Through Career Services, he was able to be trained by a cybersecurity company and is now a candidate for a position with them after he graduates.

The counselors at Career Services helped him decide what he wants to specialize in once he graduates. He was also able to learn about career options available after graduation because of how many companies are partnered with USF in the Tampa Bay area.

“Raise your hand in class and talk to your teachers, build those relationships and they will definitely help you,” said Jean Jacques. “If you get out there and network and talk to people, there’s definitely a lot of resources out there for you to get a job after you graduate.”

Jean Jacques came into USF as a shy student, but his desire to succeed and make his family proud helped him come out of his shell. Being able to get out of his comfort zone allowed him to meet a variety of people and get paid internships to boost his resume.

“If you are a first-generation student, it’s not a bad idea to leave your home and go somewhere else because it kind of pushes you to get outside of your comfort zone and you learn a lot,” said Jean Jacques.

If you are a first-generation student, USF has resources for you. If you are interested in learning about Career Services, you can visit their website here or call them at (813) 974-2171.