Tuesday, 7 June 2016

How Jamaica Changed Me

I came to Jamaica in 2005 to study at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus and although I was no way old, I was also not young when compared to the many teens who jumped right out of high school into university. I realised then that St.Vincent was different, maybe owing to the fact that we do not have a University offering full degrees on the island. Many of us worked at least a year or 2 or even more before attending university and most do not attend university at all especially after finding a job. Even more so, university then appeared to be for the affluent and so you may never hear stories like that of our Jamaican counterpart of not having food to eat or sleeping at the library or de-registration from not paying school fees or many of the other challenges that some Jamaican students faced at university. However, it was not because we were rich, but more so because we had to sort out ourselves properly before deciding to travel to another man's country in pursue of a degree. Hence, most of us had loans and others might have obtained a scholarship.

I was certainly extremely happy to have friends that pushed me to take the step to get the degree and though I took a loan, which I am still paying, I was glad that the government provided a system for economically disadvantaged students like myself to obtain such a loan. I am even more contented with the changes I have seen in my life on account of me travelling to Jamaica; changes that I believe would not have occurred if I had remained in St.Vincent given my background. I became an adult in Jamaica.

So how has it changed you? you might asked. Well, I became more aware, highly driven and goals oriented. This is not to say my fellow Vincentians are not like this, but I spoke about my background earlier and it has to do with what I was seeing in my space, my home and my community. A lot of persons were laid back and have accepted where their existing position in live. Some were artist within themselves and  never sold a painting, good at masonry and carpentry, but never became a contractor, excellent cooks, but never owned a restaurant, love farming, but may never owned a farm. Our school system pushed people towards a class position whether first, second or third, but never towards a career. I remembered even in school, I wanted to do business subjects but I was TOLD I would be doing the sciences because I am one of the better students at it. Activities such as debate clubs, music, public speaking, art etc were not highly integrated in the school curriculum or developed as part of the school system

I came to Jamaica where some of my friends got their PhD by age 25 and I was now understanding that there are B.A., B.Sc, B.Ed and such things as masters. I listened to people who would attend any workshop that is available to them so that they can gain a skill. I listened and saw persons start their businesses at these young and tender age. I listened to them clearly articulate, when I was still struggling with subject and verb agreement. I have visited downtown Kingston many times, but for the first time I learnt the true meaning of hustling. It was not just sitting on a street corner calling yourself a hustler especially if you are involved in drugs.  I saw men walking up and down with bags in hand on shoulders and/or heads selling bag juice or banana chips, women walking the streets of Kingston selling clothes, people including children selling panties and shoes and as soon as you glimpse the shoes, it on your foot because they want they are trying to convince you to purchase it. People did not just sit at a corner and hope that you pass by their booth. No, they were up and down the town. The country never shuts down. Just visit Halfway Tree on any late evening and you will notice that when stores are closed, then people are on the streets selling. I admired and marveled at it all and clearly understood hustling.

I marveled more so at the young students and graduates I met at the university. Here I was, at my relatively old age, shying away from leadership positions and any thing will make me stand before a crowd and speak. I was not shy, but I lacked confidence. I looked at my fellow students and I was inspired to be more than. They ran for Hall Chairs, took up other committee positions on the halls, took on class rep positions, joined this and that clubs on the campus and it changed my entire perspective on life.

I  now pushed myself and take advantage of all opportunities that come to me. I took up blogging so that I can inspire but also to push me to write more and correct my language when I see the mistakes even after several weeks. I became entrepreneurial minded and I began to push others. I focus on building strong, positive networks because I realised the people in your space matters greatly.  I looked at all the things the world needs and I asked myself, how can I be an agent of change and I positioned myself to do such. My mind is now always ticking with ideas. Indeed, Jamaica has changed me in a way that I welcomed.