Coming to the USA from Cameroon was a tremendous change for my family and me. The first years were tough. Adapting to the language barrier required me to make an incredibly colossal effort. Everything was different. Working and studying at the same time was especially difficult. I could only take classes in the morning because I had to work at 2 PM. I could only study on weekends and breaks at work. I couldn't pick the professor or class I wanted if it were in the afternoon because I could only remain at school until 1:30 PM to arrive at work on time. Yet, the only alternative was to remain in a low-paying job forever. Even now, as a small business owner, it would be impossible for me to pay for dental school while I excel in the program, particularly given how my business suffered from COVID-19.
My mother had three low-paying jobs, barely enough to put food on the table and pay the rent for a small, modest apartment. A respected nurse anesthesiologist in Cameroon. She had to start over here and become a housekeeper in a hotel, an assistant to the elderly, a delivery driver, etc. My mother came first to America to save money to bring her three children, taking out loans at high interest. My irresponsible father remained in Cameroon, and I had to become a man myself very quickly to help my family and pursue an education at the same time. I had to become a father and the head of a household as required by the culture of Cameroon, where the oldest male is the principal protector and breadwinner for the family. My siblings were still young children.
My mother depended on my emotional and financial support, especially since she suffered from depression. I had to help my siblings with schoolwork as school was always our top priority, even over food. We all knew that was our only way out. I taught them to work hard and never complain. We received some government assistance, but it was minimal, and we did not like getting help. We didn’t have a choice. It was tough. I had to teach my younger siblings how to drive, shave, and everything a father would teach them. I sacrificed to take them to school and practices. I had to teach them how to take care of a home. I am a guide and role model for them and always have been. I never got a break from my responsibilities, not even to unwind for a day or two once and a while. My mother and younger siblings were always in need of something.
Life in Africa is, of course, extremely hard. Even super-smart hard workers sometimes fail to extricate themselves from poverty and low pay, doing ugly, dangerous work; often, they remain trapped. There are opportunities in America if one works hard, even starting at the bottom. The move to the US was necessary to make it. The healthcare system is just too primitive in Cameroon. Education is even worse. My mother understood that and did what she had to do for her family. Next, it became my turn.
My entrepreneurial spirit has always been there, and our economic situation pushed me to think quickly to take full advantage of the new possibilities presented in the USA. I had to find ways to help my mother, who had sacrificed everything for us to have a better chance. I started educating myself about finances. I began watching, reading, and learning everything I could about finances and saved as much money as possible, using every tax refund and part of my student loans to begin my own business.
As someone who aspires to a career in dentistry from a disadvantaged background, I naturally want to help others from underprivileged backgrounds. I see it as my moral and professional duty, honoring my profession as well as humanity at the same time.
Disadvantaged Status Essay for Dental School