Road to Chemistry in the United States

Stephanie Jean, an international student from The Bahamas studying at the College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University is a finalist for the ISV Magazine Margaret W. Wong Scholarship. Read her essay here!

“Why chemistry?’ The question I continue to receive every time I respond to that familiar inquiry that breaks the ice amongst strangers in a college setting, “What’s your major?” I can tell them that I want to be a doctor or a nurse and use my degree to help as many sick people or animals that I can, but I don’t. I could say that I’m looking into nutrition to make the world a healthier place, but that’s not my passion. Maybe I want to pursue a career in radiology and do so for the reasons radiologists have for being in that profession, but probably not. I am a chemistry major because I have a strong desire to pursue a career in laboratory research and I believe that I can only achieve this goal through studying in the United States.

I was born in The Bahamas to a Haitian father and a Haitian-Trinidadian mother. This combination has made it difficult to pursue a career in the United States. According to the law in my home country, I am not Bahamian because my father is not Bahamian, even though I was born and raised in The Bahamas. Being stateless at the time meant that I could not get a passport; I found out later that this is not completely true. I applied for citizenship after my eighteenth birthday and received it as well as my first passport. I left The Bahamas for the first time in my life to attend college in Minnesota.

For most of my life, my mother has been the only true parent that I have known. As a single mother of five, she has worked hard to ensure that each of her children are equipped with the tools that would make a higher education possible. In The Bahamas there is little opportunity to obtain a higher education in the field of scientific research. Our local institutions cater to nurses, teachers, and persons interested in fields of enterprise. This, unfortunately, put me at a disadvantage for the career path that I wanted to embark upon. Evidently, when I was accepted into the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University.

I came to the United States in January 2014 with only research in mind and nothing further. In my year and a half in Minnesota, I have not only refined my career goals but I have also enriched my internal values and my view of the world. This experience has given, and continues to give me the skills that would greatly assist me in research, in that I am able to work with people from not only different backgrounds, whether national, religious, or racial, but also persons in different fields, whilst maintaining my own goals and opinions. I do not believe that I would have had this combination of learning had I remained in The Bahamas mostly due to the close minded nature of my native culture. I believe that furthering my education in the United States has given me the opportunity to realize these benefits and will continue to expand my ability to work in various environments whilst continuing to pursue a career in research.

[typography font=”Lobster” size=”18″ size_format=”px”]Stephanie Jean [/typography]

Home Country: The Bahamas

University/College: College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota

margaret w. wong scholarship international student voice magazine

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