Despite excelling academically and having the potential to attend college, the lack of financial support hindered my pursuit of higher education in Jamaica.

It’s such an honor to discuss the challenges I’ve faced. First, I’d like to introduce myself. I am Kelvin Justin Smith, and I am from a small community in Portland, Jamaica. Raised by a single parent alongside seven siblings, I have enduring memories of my upbringing, notably the financial struggles we endured. Though my memories of my siblings are strong, what stands out most is the financial burden we carry. Despite excelling academically and having the potential to attend college, the lack of financial support hindered my pursuit of higher education in Jamaica. My fortune took a turn when I received a full scholarship to Benedict College. I later met the founder and CEO of Adapt A Destiny, Ms. Morlette Cowan, who supported me and eased my financial hardships, allowing me to pursue my chosen career path.

Pursuing higher education in a foreign land demands dedication. You have to leave behind your immediate family and homeland. I’ve spent nearly a year in the United States, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Premed Biology, and this journey has revealed much about my true self. Apart from academics, the excitement of experiencing a new country overwhelmed me initially. However, that excitement dwindled as challenges emerged, reshaping my expectations. Overcoming these obstacles required a stronger connection with my faith, making me bolder and more assertive.

Read Kelvin’s first essay.

Studying as an international student in the US comes with its challenges. However, this compelled me to adopt various strategies to alleviate my financial burdens. A church member from Northside Baptist church extended an invitation, leading to invaluable financial assistance and guidance.

Through these obstacles, I’ve gained profound insights. I’ve learned that I hold the pen to my story, unimpeded by barriers when pursuing my dreams and aligning with my faith. I realize I must step out of my comfort zone and actively engage to excel. My introverted nature, I’ve learned, can hinder progress; it closes doors to potential opportunities.

In my time in the US, I’ve gained exposure to diverse medical institutions, enhancing my interests beyond the classroom. I’ve shadowed an internal medical doctor at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). This has given me a better understanding of what a doctor’s typical day looks like and a good experience to talk about in my applications and interview for medical school, which will also help me familiarize myself with different medical specialties and environments.

Participation in on-campus community services, particularly the Harambee Festival, has been impactful. Collaborating with international students worldwide has broadened my understanding of various cultures and brought a sense of warmth and belonging.

Originating from an impoverished community in Jamaica, my desire to uplift it ignited my educational pursuits.  As a future cardiologist, I aim to contribute to non-profit organizations, assisting students facing the same challenges I did. My ambitions also extend to offering medical forums in my home community, promoting health awareness and prevention.

Numerous obstacles have marked my journey in the US, contributing to my growth and maturity and strengthening my connection with God. Overcoming the initial fear of communication due to my accent led me to embrace my authentic self and seize opportunities.

Building a network has been paramount for international students like me. Effective networking with professors has enabled me to excel academically and better understand my desired medical field. This practice has allowed me to build my brand and be authentically myself.

Pursuing tertiary education in the USA demands unwavering focus and determination. My advice to fellow international students is to be open-minded and expect the unexpected. I advise them to embrace spontaneity and seize opportunities, no matter how small. Limited opportunities for international students mean that every chance should be utilized to its fullest potential.