Garrett Farlow, 23, is a senior journalism student at the University of Kansas. He is a first-generation college student from Tecumseh, Kansas, studying strategic communication, political science and Slavic languages and literatures. Garrett is also involved with ROTC at the university with plans to join the Army to become a pilot after graduation.
I’m a first-generation college student. I was raised just outside of Topeka, and I wanted to go to KU my whole life. I ended up coming here, but my whole family, they were K-State fans, and me being the youngest child, I was always the one that had to be different. I take credit for the family making the transition to becoming KU fans.
My brother, my sister and I are the first ever in my family to go to college. Literally everyone before us worked on the farm. I grew up on a farm. We ranch cattle, like 100 to 200 cattle in the summer. I grew up riding horses and helping my dad do cattle, feeding them. That’s something that definitely defined me — the country boy going to a very liberal school.
I remember tagging along on a college visit with my brother—I was probably in the third or fourth grade—and just in the middle of the tour, I turned to my dad, and I said, “This is the best day of my life.”
It’s really hard being a first-generation student. You don’t know what you should be doing, and you don’t have any frame of reference with your family members. I tell my parents about what’s going on at school, and I can tell they don’t completely understand, and I feel guilty that they didn’t get to go. You overcome it by recognizing that not only are you doing it to better yourself, but you’re doing it to make your parents proud and your family proud.
I’m going into the Army after I graduate to become a helicopter pilot, flying Chinooks, which look like giant school buses.
I almost went and enlisted after high school. I decided not to because my parents didn't get to go to college. They told me, “Just go to college. You won’t be mad if you do.”
Growing up with a very humble background, we would always go on road trips. We would drive everywhere. I never had to fly, so it was always so cool to go up in an airplane. For me, I knew that you could fly helicopters in the Army, but it was one of those things where it was a self-imposed wall and a limit on myself. I didn’t think it was even an opportunity I could do or qualify for, or that I was smart enough to do it. But I looked into it and decided to give it a try, and it worked out.
I’ve been traveling, studying Russian. I’ve studied abroad three times.
My area of interest that I find fascinating is specifically press freedoms within the post-Soviet states, specifically central Asia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, because I’ve been there. When I was an intern at the press club in Kazakhstan, I got to work at a nonprofit where they would train journalists to quit their jobs at news organizations because all the news organizations there were state sponsored, which meant they were all censored. But there’s a loophole where, if you’re a freelancer, you can do whatever you want within the laws. It was a media boot camp they would put people through for a month. They would teach how to brand yourself, how to build a website, how to do video. It was fascinating because I got to see that at the very smallest level. I’m hoping that I can do that with the State Department, and if that doesn’t work out, then I’ll probably move to Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan and open my own press club and do that on my own.
My dream is to be an expat.
Danya Issawi is a senior journalism student from Prairie Village, Kansas, studying news and information, psychology and peace and conflict studies. She currently serves as the opinion editor and as a member of the editorial board for the University Daily Kansan. After graduation, Issawi plans to move to New York City to pursue her writing career.