UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – Penn State is home to many first-generation students who make invaluable contributions to the university and the campus community. One of these talented and pioneering students is Rose Fisher, a doctoral candidate in German Linguistics and Language Sciences at the College of Liberal Arts.

Fisher is currently working as a part-time graduate student, part-time researcher and part-time German teacher in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages ​​and Literatures. While she is certainly making impressive progress at Penn State, Fisher’s journey and her journey to graduate school are particularly unique.

A native of Bird-In-Hand in Lancaster County, Pa., Fisher is a former member of the Amish community.

“I was born into an Amish family, which meant hard physical labor was valued in my community while education beyond basic reading, writing and math skills was not seen as necessary,” he said. she declared. “Nonetheless, after my family left the Amish when I was 11, I knew I wanted to go to high school and college.”

In addition to her own passion for learning and being a student, Fisher described how her father played a key role in encouraging her to get a formal education.

“My father always wished he had the opportunity to go to high school and college, but this is not allowed in the Amish community, so he was never able to continue his education beyond eighth grade.” , she said. “When we left the Amish, he encouraged my younger sister and I not only to go to high school, but also to go to college; that put the option on the table for me.

After graduating from high school from Commonwealth Connections Academy, a public cyber school, Fisher continued his education at Millersville University. However, her initial transition to college as a first-generation student came up with many challenges.

“Until that point in my life, I had lived very little outside of Amish culture and the old Amish culture I grew up in. Having attended a cyber school, I had very little exposure to the world outside of my tight-knit community, ”she said. noted. “No one I knew had never been to college, so I didn’t have anyone to guide me. Each decision seemed like a new unknown, often leaving me feeling lost and alone.

The combined process of applying to colleges, planning courses, and navigating financial logistics turned out to be overwhelming. Fisher has also experienced many new and unknown culture shocks, especially in academia.

“Going to a public college meant sudden exposure to the culture of mainstream society, which was both exhilarating and overwhelming,” she said. “I often felt misunderstood as I struggled with standards and expectations that were foreign to me. “

Fisher graduated from Millersville University in 2018 with degrees in Psychology and German. Although she faced an array of challenges and adversities during her undergraduate years, she came out with many valuable lessons from her experiences as a first-generation college student.

“I have learned to be proud of my humble origins, even though it makes me different from everyone else,” she said. “I’ve learned that I can embrace who I am and what makes me unique, while still being open to new ideas and places I’ve never experienced before. The disadvantages or setbacks should not prevent me from pursuing my goals and making their achievement all the more satisfying.

Fisher said one of the most important lessons she learned from her transition to college was the importance of asking for help.

“There is always someone to find who is willing and able to help. Don’t be afraid to contact them, ”she said.

While Fisher was challenged to navigate and adjust to certain cultural differences in college, her Amish background still has a big effect on her life and values ​​today.

“Even though I haven’t been Amish for over half of my life now, I still notice the little ways that I feel bad about my place in academia due to my cultural background,” he said. she declared. “On the other hand, I am fiercely independent, a free thinker, an individualist, and I think this is partly in response to the rather restrictive collectivist culture in which I grew up. Societal expectations that could have limited my physical and intellectual explorations. of the world have only inspired me to seek them out more.

Even Fisher’s research and academic activities at Penn State, which focus on Pennsylvania’s Dutch language, are greatly influenced by his Amish roots.

“My research focuses on the linguistic properties of Pennsylvania Dutch, the language spoken by the Amish,” she said. “This language is unwritten and not taught in schools, so there is a lot about it that is not known. Being a native of this language and having always been captivated by languages ​​at large, I am interested in all aspects of Pennsylvania Dutch, but especially in the socio-cultural functions of the language as well as in certain grammatical structures.

As a first-generation graduate student, researcher and part-time teacher at the College of the Liberal Arts, Fisher is grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to her thus far.

“Higher school is not for the faint of heart,” she said. “But teaching, being a student, being a member of my department, doing original research and presenting that research at conferences are all things that I find extremely rewarding, so all the hard work is worth it.”

Looking back on his stimulating but formative experiences throughout college, Fisher left his first generation classmates with the following advice: “Be proud of your unique identity. You bring something to the table that only you can provide. Wherever you come from, whatever you’ve been through and whoever you are, own it.