New Terrier-Run Podcast Aims to Be a Resource for First-Gen Latina Students
Vicky Plasencia (COM’23) created project with guidance from BU’s Newbury Center
The words are spoken in a gentle, singsong voice.
“My name is Vicky and I’m a BU first-gen senior student. And I’ve been wanting to do this podcast for a very long time.”
This is how Vicky Plasencia begins her First-Gen Latina Podcast, a project she undertook with the help of BU’s Newbury Center, a campus support service for first-generation college students like herself. From the College of Communications podcast recording studios, Plasencia addresses her listeners like a wise older sister who’s been through the tough stuff and wants to make sure they don’t have to. Her tone when dispensing advice ranges from the candid (“Don’t be rude. You’re not entitled to anyone’s help.”) to the confidential (“The thing I’m going to say now is just between you and me.”). But her intent, she says , is consistent: “I’m trying to be a resource.”
Since her 2018 arrival in Boston from her native Buenos Aires, Plasencia has been figuring out how to navigate the US higher education system, and the majority of her wisdom has either been crowdsourced from friends, learned through trial and error, or discovered through hours of Googling. Many fellow first-gens do the same, she says, with varying degrees of success.
“When I got to the US, I did not understand anything about the academic system,” Plasencia recalls. “In Buenos Aires there’s a big university called the University of Buenos Aires, and when you want to enroll, you walk into an office and you say, ‘I want to enroll,’ they give you a form, and you fill out the form. That’s it. No common application, no essay, no FAFSA, no GPA requirements, no SATs.”
Plasencia watched YouTube videos on how to navigate the Common Application and relied on friends to point out relevant scholarship funds. It was during these moments that her idea for the First-Gen Latina Podcast was born.
“I think podcasts are the perfect communication channel for this information,” Plasencia says.. “It’s a more passive way of learning while you’re doing something else, and these are heavy topics if you have never learned them before. I think a podcast makes it easier to digest.”
In her podcast and in conversations, the public relations major is quick to note that Newbury Center has been her greatest resource. Not only have they helped her access financial aid resources i, but Maria Dykema Erb, the center’s director, was crucial in helping her secure a BU Wellbeing Project Grant to support the podcast. (Additional funding came from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, another project partner, in the form of a Catalyst Grant.)
“When she spoke to me about it, it was really exciting,” Erb says. “[The podcast] was bringing a community of first-gen students together—not just Latina first gens, but any student who wants to navigate the financial challenges that are happening to them. It was a lot of fun to be able to help a student see her ideas come to life.”
Plasceia says she didn’t always approach the topic of navigating college from a first-gen lens. “The point of the podcast is to say, ‘If you consider yourself a first gen, that’s amazing. This is for you,” she says. “If you don’t consider yourself a first gen, these resources can still be helpful for you.’”
Plasencia spends much of her time on air dispensing advice. In her first and second episodes (“3 Financial Tips I Wish I Knew Before College” and “3 Career Tips to Know Before Your Senior Year”), her recommendations range from pragmatic—such as ways to file financial aid appeals and apply for low-cost campus housing—to curative—e.g., how to battle impostor syndrome.
“When I was in [an] internship, I used to go home and talk with my roommate and share with him that I felt like I was the only Latina in the building,” she says in the second episode. “Share how you’re feeling because, if there is something worse than dealing with emotion that makes you feel anxiety, it’s isolation.”
Plasencia makes a point of reminding her listeners about the resources available to first-gen students from Newbury Center. Like her podcast, the center shares resources with those for whom institutional fluency and support are not necessarily a given. It’s a mission that Plascenia says comes naturally to her.
“[The first-gen spirit] is being very proactive,” Plasencia says. “In the struggle of finding these resources yourself, you learn a lot about productivity. You learn a lot about being resourceful. You are relentless. In order to make sense, you have to learn.”