Feeling like a college can be your home for four years is different than making it your home. Many first-year students may feel overwhelmed or even a bit inadequate when they arrive on campus. Yasmine Elasmar, a senior first-generation student from New Jersey, had those feelings when she first enrolled at NYU. “We struggle to balance our family’s expectations, match what our peers are doing, and take feedback from our toughest critic: ourselves,” she says. At NYU, Yasmine learned quickly that she wasn’t alone. She found a supportive community of students similar to her that has allowed her to pursue her passions with confidence.
Connecting with Those Who Came Before
Early in her NYU career, Yasmine joined Proud to Be First, a mentorship program for first-generation students at the University. As a mentee, she connected with other first-generation students who were once in her shoes. “Thanks to Proud to Be First, my emotions and anxieties were never overlooked. I always felt heard,” she says. “I quickly realized how much my feelings as a first-generation student resonate with so many other students at NYU. At a university filled with students from different backgrounds and cultures, we were able to unite.”
Building Skills Through Research
Having discovered an avenue to help her make NYU home, Yasmine grew into a leader. As a Psychology major who’s also pursuing a minor in Chemistry, she began working as a research assistant the summer after her first year. She started with lab work that examined the correlation between the composition of microbiomes and human cognitive states. She then expanded her knowledge and skills as a research apprentice in the NYU Infant Action Lab, where she studies the ways infants navigate their environments.
Becoming a part of a pioneering lab that has such a large focus on undergraduate mentorship, Yasmine says, “has been one of the best decisions I’ve made at NYU.” Her work cultivates real-world skills, puts classroom concepts into practice, and gives her opportunities to develop professionally, including presenting at the NYU College of Arts and Science (CAS) Undergraduate Research Conference, which was held virtually for the first time in 2020. But her contribution doesn’t stop there.
Paying Forward Unconditional Support
Yasmine is a member of Women in Science (WINS), a CAS grant-issuing program that brings together like-minded peers and mentors to help create more inclusivity in STEM research and careers. She is also the vice president of the Society for Undergraduate Neural Science (SUNS), a club whose activities include a recently launched tutoring program for undergrad and high school students. And of course, Yasmine is still a member of Proud to Be First, now serving as a mentor. “Many of my mentees are first-generation Latina women in STEM, three identities not commonly found in the sciences. I’m not alone in those identities, and neither are my mentees. We have an entire community to lean on.”
NYU is a place where Yasmine found the strength and support to make a home for herself. And she’s excited to pay it forward. “My aim is to provide first-generation students at NYU with the same unconditional support that lifted me up when I was a first-year student in Proud to Be First,” she says. “I would not be the person I am today without it.”