By Mabel Soriano, 12th Grade
When I say I want to stay in the Dominican Republic, I’m usually met by a sigh. A sigh that evokes pity or perhaps disappointment.
I’ve probably been worrying about college before I even started high school. My parents emphasized how important this decision was and how it deserved my time and absolute attention. A decision that will severely influence my future and impact my present.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: your career holds value. What I mean by this is that people judge you based on your occupation, income, and what you do for a living. Similarly, I have noticed that people can easily criticize others based on where they decide to study, even more so if they don’t want a higher education. For example, a degree in medicine from Harvard University sounds ten times more impressive than a degree in medicine from the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD).
These are unfair assumptions we make based on the level of education a person has, which has absolutely nothing to do with their worth as human beings or contribution to their community. We dehumanize people and abide by the status quo without considering the different factors that lead to that outcome.
In my case, I can’t afford to study abroad, a reality that many students face today, given to how overpriced education is. However, I have the training to do so. I have taken the PSATs, SATs, and AP exams. I have written college essays, prepared a curriculum, and studied the application process for years. My parents work exorbitantly hard to allow me to access the best education, which will hopefully lead me to a bright future. Sadly, it is still not enough to cover tuition. Therefore, I took it upon myself to search for scholarships.
Now, scholarships are extremely difficult to get. The process is straightforward: you fill out a few forms, send out your application, and wish for the best. But simple statistics say otherwise. You are one student out of thousands of equally or more capable applicants wanting the same spot. You have to be perfect, and that stuck with me. I have always been an overachiever, desiring the admiration that comes from winning an award, reaching that 4.0 GPA, and receiving compliments for my hard work. It made me feel special, but the pressure I had to be excellent was too much for me to handle. I became obsessed with school and stopped enjoying my life. It got to a point where I would break down in tears if I lost more than five points in a class. I thought that if I didn’t get a scholarship, then I couldn’t study abroad, and I would be a failure, which is far from the truth.
I started to wonder why there was this negative connotation to studying here. Why did I feel like a disappointment for wanting to become a doctor in this country? I proudly call myself Dominican, yet I felt discouraged to stay here a minute longer than necessary. I realized that my idea came from believing I was settling. I’m a student in a school that prepares graduates to conquer the world and become social catalysts. Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” With that ideology in mind, it’s easy to feel pressured to satisfy such remarkably high expectations. But I felt the need to make sure my parents’ sacrifice and money weren’t in vain; I needed to prove my value, and I guess the easiest way to do that was through academic excellence.
The problem with believing you aren’t good enough is that you’ll never feel pleased. You’ll always desire to be better and work for something impossible because perfection isn’t a trait humans possess. From my experience, being a perfectionist leads to burnout, anxiety, breakdowns, and low self-esteem; this can be a very harmful mindset that could only set you up for failure.
Therefore, since I’m not perfect, there exists no such thing as what my life needs to look like. I choose my path that only needs to make sense to me, regardless of what others think. The choices you make should be purely in your best interest. Moreover, you must consider everything! It isn’t only choosing a career but anything that involves the profession: cost, location, duration, citizenship, etc.
Professionally, I want to become a doctor—already the most expensive and time-consuming field of study. The United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom offer medicine as a doctorate. I would need to complete a Bachelor’s Degree, a three to four-year program that would cover all the pre-medical school requirements– physics, biology, statistics, chemistry, biochemistry, sociology, and psychology. Then, to validate my degree, I would have to take the MCAT to apply to medical school, which is another four years; a minimum of eight years to become a general practitioner without residency or payment. I could do the same thing in Spain in six years and here in five for a third of the cost.
So, the most cost-and-time-effective way for me to become a doctor would be to do med school here. But studying abroad doesn’t simply involve money, it involves other things–for example, becoming independent for the first time in my life. Are you prepared to live on your own at eighteen? Many aren’t ready to move out, and nothing is wrong with that. There isn’t a calendar to follow, and you don’t have to achieve milestones by a certain age. “To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream, not only plan but also believe” (Anatole France). All actions deserve time to flourish into meaningful aspects of your life, and those timetables vary per person.
I truly believe that reaching for higher education takes self-confidence, hard work, and perseverance. Regardless of when or where I accomplish my degree, I’ll still be a doctor, and I could do that with a stable support system, at a smaller price, and in a country I’ve lived in my entire life. There are thousands of paths that can lead to the same result. Furthermore, research is fundamental. Don’t limit yourself to one city, country, or continent. It is essential to evaluate every possibility because this is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life, and it isn’t something you should take lightly. As Steve Jobs once said, “your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”