Today I caught the bus with one of my dear professors. We had a conversation that lasted the entire bus ride and then the walk to her house, since I didn’t get off at my stop in order to keep talking with her.

She’s the daughter of working-class Greek immigrants to Canada. Her mother worked in a garment factory and she toiled for years to save enough money to go to school and eventually get her PhD, and now she’s one of the most beloved and respected professors in the department.

This was the first time I talked about my roots with a professor one-on-one; I told her about my father’s family coming from Russia/Poland, and how my mother works as a hotel cleaner and banquet waitress. She gave me the strength to overcome the lingering anxiety that I felt about being the first in my family to go to university. She reminded me that it didn’t matter where I came from, but what I decided to do once I had made it here, and that passion and hard work will get you further than networking and insider know-how.

I am so glad that I stayed on that bus.