I didn’t always know where I wanted to study. Growing up, most teenagers after completing high school attended the University of the West Indies Mona (UWI) and so naturally, up to about the 4th year of my high school journey, I thought that would also be my fate. Little did I know that God had other plans for me. “When man a plan, God a wipe out”.
I researched programs offered by UWI and I made a list of my top 3 programs. I had to figure this out from early as my mom would always tell me that she was not with the switching majors on multiple occasions so I really had no choice but to get it together.
At this time, in my head, I would be pursuing either something in Science, Geography or Spanish. Science because well growing up, my house was filled with Science textbooks and my mom was a teacher of the Sciences. Geography because I had a passion for Human Geography and how it dealt with real issues that people around the world face. And Spanish because I loved the language and ever since I began studying it in high school, I performed extremely well in the subject and was always encouraged to pursue it.
Fast forward to sixth form. In Grade 12, I did four CAPE subjects, Geography, Information Technology, Spanish and Communication Studies. Some might say that was a weird combination. And I agree to some extent. But I chose subjects that I liked. This was a whole 360 turn for me because in CSEC, my choice subjects were Biology, Geography and Physics. So really, how did I get here? The answer is pretty simple. Self-discovery.
I sat down and I really assessed everything. Yes, I did Science subjects but I didn’t love them. I did well at them but up to the point of the end of grade 11, my drive was fuelled by 1. my love for learning new things and 2. well, you’re already in too deep. I wanted to study subjects that truly excited me. That I had a passion for and so I chose the above-mentioned subjects. Do I regret it? Not one bit.
By this time, I no longer had only one place for University. I had quite a few. One Jamaican university and a lengthy list of Canadian schools with the programs they offered that sparked my interest. When some of these schools came to do presentations at school, I attended and based on what I heard, I either moved them up the list or I erased them altogether.
However, my main determining factor was not the programs they offered. It was never the campus size. It didn’t have one bit to do with the clubs and societies. It was money. Not just the tuition cost but if they had scholarships. And not just any scholarships, full or majority of expenses paid kind of scholarships. So you should know when I decided to finalize my list based on schools, my list really decreased in size. In fact, that’s an understatement. When it all “boil dung” to everything, the program I wanted to do and the scholarships available, I had 4 universities on my list. UWI Mona for my local university and for Canada, Trent University, UOIT and Humber College (P.S. my search was limited to Ontario).
I did my thing and I applied to the schools. My first response was in December of 2015 from UOIT. I believe Trent followed. My Humber College application took a while to be processed and so did my UWI application. In fact, at one point, while I had been accepted to the Canadian schools, I was rather anxious when I didn’t hear from UWI. Because in my head, “foreign was not a sure thing so if you don’t get your UWI acceptance, your case well tight”. All in all, I was accepted to all 4 universities. Thanks be to God!
But here’s where it gets real interesting. Scholarships. I applied for scholarships at the 3 Canadian universities. I was to get a response around March/April from Trent and Humber College and May 30 from UOIT. Around the ending of March, I received an email from Trent. (I hope you know I was checking my email every day. No, EVERY SECOND from March began) The day the email came I paused and I prayed and I remember asking God that when I open the email, I’d see good news. When I opened the email, it was good news. I had received a scholarship from Trent but the scholarship funds were not enough to cover my expenses, namely tuition. So I was rather disappointed but I thanked God nevertheless and hoped that in time to come, I would hear real good news.
Time passed. April passed and I received no word from Humber. I was down to my last cookie. I don’t think I ever prayed as hard as I prayed during that period. Night and day. Day and night. Praying, meditating, checking my email. That was basically my life.
When I thought I would take my last breath, May 30 came. I think my mother knew something was up because I just had this look of someone on edge. Someone nervous to death. I didn’t get an email.
They often say “no news is good news”. That was what comforted me. I told myself that well you did not get an email saying that you received the scholarship and you did not get an email saying that you did not either. That was my thread of hope. That helped me feel that if even just a little flicker, there was a small light in this tunnel. So I pulled out my mustard seed faith.
I contacted my admissions counsellor to enquire what was really going on. I just really needed to know. I needed some peace of mind. It was hard to really have hope when it seemed like nothing was working out for me. I reasoned with God and I questioned him. I prayed. There were days I just could not eat. This was my future and I was worried.
I started really warming up to UWI. Because in my head, this is where I was going. I chose my hall. Started looking at the amenities. Joked around with friends about hall visits and what we would do together. Could you blame me though? I sent in my hall accommodation request etc. Because I was going to UWI.
But again, “when man a plan, God a wipe out”. My admissions counsellor, by this time, had responded to me and explained that the committee had not yet come to a decision. I prayed even more. I checked my email even more following that.
There was ONE scholarship. Open to all international students. And this little brown girl from Annotto Bay, St. Mary, Jamaica was going up against all these other students. When I thought about it, I laughed. What had gotten into me? It was really like a gamble. I really critiqued myself. Well, my grades were good but maybe, somewhere out there, there was someone who was smarter. And when I was not evaluating grades, I measured my school involvement. Well you did really well in your school activities, but maybe there was a more rounded student. And really, I was torturing myself. Doubting myself. Comparing myself. Looking at all I was not instead of all that I was.
Every morning, up to when I got a response, I woke up, prayed and checked my email. It was the day of my sixth form school leaving ceremony. June 13, 2016. For some reason, I didn’t check my email that morning. That morning, I just decided that I was going to focus on the 7 great years I spent at the Immaculate Conception High School. Around midday, my phone rang. I noticed it was a strange number calling. In my head, this was either a family member or a scammer. It was neither of the two.
It was my admissions counsellor. He enquired if I had checked my email that morning and I said no. He expressed that that was good because I had been sent a general email that was circulated to the other applicants and I was in fact the recipient of the scholarship.
I was shocked. I believe I cried. And I ran and shared the news with my grandmother. I thanked God. Imagine if I had checked my email that morning! I would have been so down and disappointed.
Here I am today, a year later, reminiscing on this experience in my life. This life-changing experience. From that point on, I believe it was confirmed that God has a special purpose for my life and I am truly blessed. He tested my faith. Wavering at times but it was still there. Though small as a mustard seed, it was there.
My advice to you is don’t limit yourself. Don’t be like how I was. Thinking of my limitations and what I didn’t have. Think of what you do have. Believe in yourself. And don’t limit yourself. There are many opportunities out there for you. Don’t be afraid to have a heart-to-heart talk with God. You don’t need big words or a fancy prayer. Just reason with Him. Let Him know the desires of your heart. And then take action. Help yourself. Put yourself in a position to win.
It matters not where you are from. It matters not who is your parent. You want better? You have a dream? Go with God and make it happen.