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Rosena Beniste

Faculty: Rosena Beniste
Assistant Professor, Speech Communication
Pathway: Arts, Humanities, Communication & Design

As a Haitian-American, I was born in the United States but both of my parents migrated from Haiti in the early 1980’s to flee both the political and economic issues in Haiti. My mother often would tell me the story on how along with many brave Haitian immigrants, she traveled on an unseaworthy boat with two small children (under the age of 3) from Bahamas to the shores of Florida, seeking the American dream.

What motivated you to attend college?
My mother, a single-parent, was my biggest motivator. Illiterate with only an elementary education, she only knew how to read and write her name. She would always tell me that she dreamed that I would be a college graduate. It would bring so much honor to our family. I also knew that college was the best way that I would be able to help my family financially.

What were the biggest challenges you encountered as a first-generation college student? How did you overcome these challenges?
One of my biggest challenges was dealing with the guilt that I felt. The fact that I had to leave my mother and family behind in Miami, Florida to attend Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. There were times that I felt so homesick and lonely. To overcome this challenge, I joined the Haitian Cultural Club, which became like a family to me. Many of the members shared the same experiences and feelings, which gave me comfort. 

What advice would you give other first-generation college students?
I would advise first-generation college students to seek support services within your college that would assist you in succeeding in your quest of graduating. For example, do not be hesitant to use free tutoring services, ask librarians to assist you with a research project, or get counseling for mental or psychological issues.

While we often talk about the challenges first generation students face, they also have unique sets of life experiences that can serve them well in college and beyond. How did your background as a first-generation college student help you in college? What skills and experiences did you draw upon?
My background helped me to develop a grit mindset, a perseverance and passion to accomplish long-term goals. As a college student, I was motivated to graduate despite any obstacles. If I needed help, I asked for assistance. If I needed advice, I asked for counsel. If I failed, I got back up. 

How does being a first-generation student influence you (and/or your work) today?
The experience has allowed me to become humble. Through my humility, I have developed more compassion for others, more energy to serve others, more patience to listen to others, more openness to embrace cultural diversity, more willingness to ask for help or clarification, and more restraint in not judging others to quickly.    

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