With recent reports indicating that Jamaica has the largest contingent of Caribbean nationals studying in the United States, and one of the latest Bill Johnson surveys showing that young, educated Jamaicans are more likely to migrate, it takes little effort to understand why four teenagers would jump at the opportunity to attend some of the best universities abroad.
For Ana Katrina Donaldson, of Campion College; Christine Jones, who attends the American International School of Kingston; Yannick Eatmon, a Wolmer’s sixth-former; and Marissa Webber, from St Andrew High School for Girls, getting into four of the top-10 universities in the US have been nothing but a dream come true.
Not only have they managed to get into these highly competitive schools, they have already secured the majority of their fees.
Jones, for example, has received more than US$70,000 in financial aid to attend the University of Chicago.
However, for these students of varying backgrounds, attending schools abroad is not an escape route to leave behind the hardships, as many before them have done.
“I want to expose myself to a completely different culture and environment. I love Jamaica, but I want to go away for a while,” said Donaldson, who got into Stanford University.
For all four, migrating after completing their studies in the United States is not an option.
“This is where you grew up; this is the place where you actually see problems first-hand, versus hearing about other people’s problems,” Webber said.
Webber, who got into the prestigious Princeton University, added: “When you go away, you get the skills and you would want to come back and fix those problems that you grew up with.”
NEVER CONSIDERED LEAVING
Eatmon, a prospective Massachusetts Institute of Technology student, shared similar sentiments, adding that he has travelled to visit relatives abroad before and never once thought about leaving Jamaica.
The students also agreed that the frequency with which young people are migrating has been adding to the country’s problems.
“I think it’s a part of the problem. People just want to leave and not come back to help develop the country. When you get opportunities to go and study abroad, then you should consider coming back and use what you gained to better Jamaica,” Jones said.
“If we all just keep leaving, it won’t get any better,” she added.
Nicole Campbell, director of Aim Educational Services, which helped the students secure places overseas, said the love for country was actually a part of the programme at the college-placement institution.
Herself a past student of St Andrew High who went abroad to study at Princeton, Campbell said she uses every opportunity to educate her pupils about the need to return to Jamaica after they complete their studies.
“I get a lot of criticism from people saying that ‘All you are doing is helping them to figure out how to leave’. However, I see my role as helping to empower them, to motivate them to realise their potential, and encourage them to come back and contribute,” she added.
She said there were many areas that Jamaican students want to pursue that are critical to national development, but they are not available in local schools.
That is part of the reason the students say they opted to study abroad as there are more options available to them.
Donaldson and Jones also said they liked the fact that in the United States four-year college system, they are not pressured to choose a career path in their first year.
“I am not certain what I want to do yet, and I have at least a year and a half more to figure out what I want to do, instead of having to choose straight off the bat,” Jones said.