Is there a single word (noun) that describes someone who was born into a lower social class family, but struggled along to a higher social class with his/her own efforts? Idioms are also welcome.
For example, I have a friend who is such a person. He has very uneducated parents who also had a lot of financial problems when he was a kid. He grew up with no toys, with clothes from his older siblings, without much of a social environment. His parents just attended primary school before they immigrated to Europe, so his parents also could not guide him and motivate him for education. He was, however, able to graduate from one of the best technical universities without any support of others, including his parents.
I wanted to tell him that he is a ______, but I did not know what word would fit to describe him.