Imposter Syndrome – Am I Supposed to Be Here?

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Imposter syndrome.

The feeling of self-doubt.

Maybe you feel like you don’t really deserve the successes or accomplishments you’ve made.

That you don’t belong in a certain space with people that you may think are better, richer, or smarter than you.

You question why you got the opportunity to experience going to college/university while the rest of your family didn’t.

Or maybe it’s just as simple as: “Am I supposed to be here?” “Do I belong here?”

Many first-generation, low-income, POC, and/or especially children of immigrant parents can probably relate. My home university has a first-generation college student program and the topic of dealing with imposter syndrome came up pretty often but honestly, I never fully resonated with that sentiment. I’d say because I thought I never really achieved anything of importance so there wasn’t much to feel like an “imposter” about.

However, that changed when I got the opportunity to study abroad. Even when I was notified that I received the FEA Scholarship, I just didn’t believe it. Throughout my journey here, I found myself looking out the windows on the planes and thinking about why I was here while my family couldn’t experience this. The world is so vast, somebody definitely deserves this more than I do. It really hit me when I arrived at my student accommodations: “This is real, it isn’t a dream.” I just got the opportunity to travel halfway across the world, the opportunity to go to school in a whole different country. But, I couldn’t help but think about my family and friends who didn’t get to.

At one point, the euphoria of being abroad, living in Auckland, and seeing new places and things put a temporary hold on those thoughts. For instance, the first day I arrived in Wellington was probably one of the most eventful days of my entire life. It was my first time solo traveling as a full-on tourist. I practically explored nearly all of Wellington Central and some surrounding areas. I also randomly met another Cambodian person (I called her “aunt,” in Khmer culture, everybody is your aunt lol) who was a taxi driver. I don’t know how to explain it but just knowing there was a Cambodian community made me feel more welcome in Wellington, like I belonged.

Then, as the city started quieting down during the evening, I was walking by the Wellington Waterfront just questioning why I was there. Why do I get to see all of these beautiful things? Meet all these cool people? Why can’t all my family and friends back home experience this too? Why just me?

It’s a feeling that’s easy to put on hold but hard to get rid of. It was only then I realized why we were asked those questions in our first-gen college student program; it’s a valid feeling for many first-generation and minority students.

So how did I combat it?

I didn’t, well not completely.

But one thing that helped was just taking it all in: put your phone down, take walks, be grateful for the seemingly small mundane things in life. I found that I adapted fairly quickly. Living and studying in Auckland went from an adventure for the first 1-2 months or so, to being my everyday life. At that point, I started finding joy in every little thing. It was somewhat of a conscious effort but since I was learning new things about New Zealand every day, it still felt organic.

I started viewing it from a different perspective: instead of constantly believing that I didn’t deserve this opportunity, I thought I would make the most of everything so I had a lot to share with others back home. I became more observant and aware of my surroundings, which made me so grateful and appreciative of every little thing. After all, I came abroad to study and live in another country and embrace others’ way of life.

Overcoming imposter syndrome is difficult, but I’d like to remind everybody reading this that you are deserving of all of the accomplishments and successes you made so far. We really are often our own harshest critics so give yourself the credit you deserve and be proud of your achievements. I’d also like to thank the FEA so much, I am so grateful for the support the organization has given to many students including myself. Without the FEA, this opportunity would’ve never been possible.

*I initially drafted this in April 2023 however, didn’t get the chance to revise and post it.

Pictured below: a photo of the Wellington Waterfront during the evening :)