By: Nohemie Mawaka I am now a quarter done my master’s degree in Public Health and I have to say that is fascinating how much I have learned in such a short period of time. Although it is exciting to learn about the various opportunities that come with the field of health, it is at times daunting. From a very young age, I always saw myself pursuing high education simply because coming from Kinshasa, DRC, where many are limited in their outlook on life due to poverty and social construct. I always told myself that education is my option in life. While my father is a realist who achieved great success in his career through education, my mother is a dreamer who goes through life pursuing various interest and opportunities that life has to offer. That is where I come in. I am both a realist and a dreamer.
This is where my long life journey of obstacles begins. I have always thought of myself as someone who is intelligent. First let me define intelligence in my own words: Humans are born with a blank state of mind (Tabula rasa) but acquire intelligence by seeking wisdom. That is why I never agree with those who say “some people are naturally smart”, what does that even mean? During my undergraduate studies I loved biology, chemistry and physics but never seemed to get high grades. The majority of science courses at my previous university graded students with standardized tests (i.e: Multiple choice). For some odd reason, no matter how hard I studied, how many hours I spent at the library; when writing a standardized test my brain freezes and nothing seems to make sense. Even worse is the fact that, most professors often trick students with having the most confusing multiple choice answers just to make the level of testing more difficult. No one gets evaluated through standardized testing in the professional world or elsewhere in the real world, so why push for it in academia? It is not an indication of one’s intelligence. Luckily for me I got into graduate school with a fairly good GPA. Yet, even in graduate school when competing against thousands of researchers for grants, the academic committee making final decisions on which student gets selected, still boils down to marks.
I am aware that the system is the way it is and there is no other way around it. I have to get better at standardize testing if I want to succeed in my dream of becoming a successful researcher in health sciences. Sadly, I am certain that I am not the only one who struggles with this. Even worse, people like me who have a thirst for knowledge and education, with dreams of doing good for the world with our future career practices. We end up at the bottom of the academic intelligence scale, simply because the education system says so. Am I frustrated? Yes. But am I going to let it stop me from pursuing my long-term goals of one day obtaining a Ph.D? No. In the end, I believe that hard work pays off, with much persistence and perseverance, the sky is ultimately the limit and I will continue to pursue my dream.
Here is my favorite TED talk which discuss a similar concept of what I have just discussed.
Photo source: Nohemie Mawaka