Saturday May 14, 2016 was the graduation ceremony of Miami University, Oxford, Ohio State. Damilola Ojerinde who came to the United States of America with her family at the age of 11, gallantly marched to the podium to collect
her degree certificate, with two majors, in Psychology and Pre-Medicine and minor in Neuroscience. She spoke of her journey to achieving her dreams with The Immigrant tracing it from the Middle school, through High school and to the Miami University.
We moved here as a family when I just turned eleven. We came in during summer so it was good we had a little bit of time to transition before I started Middle school. I went to Home Science School in Lagos, Nigeria. Though the transition was a bit hard but I was able to cope. I started in the 6th grade at Clinton Middle School, Columbus, Ohio. I did as much as I could do in those three years at Middle school just to get myself settled down. It was different compared to Nigeria where I was already in the High School, because I had to start in a class with my age group. In Nigeria I was already a year ahead of my age group. I did as much as I can to settle down, first in the U. S. and then at school, and tried to make friends at the same time.
I am grateful to my parents because they helped us a lot to settle down. Whatever they saw online, that was relevant to us, like writing essays, they let us know. I also received information about essay competitions through teachers in school.
One of the essays I did was the Rosa Park Essay which I won. We had a presentation where I had to speak in front of the Mayor of Columbus. It was one of the steps I took in getting myself into the community. I wrote several essays on diversity in my community and how I can better help my community as a whole. I saw that other people appreciated that. It wasn’t just my family but my school community in a way looked up to me in that area.
In my 8th grade I was the Student of the Year which came to me unexpectedly. That was a motivation for me. Even when I think no one is looking, someone is looking. Everything you’re are doing is counting for something; whether it is good or bad.
I wanted to be more science focused in High school. But I didn’t want to be all science so I fought to be at Fort Hayes High School which was a science and art school. I considered myself as someone who likes to try and experience new things. At Fort Hayes, I did dance, music and these are huge part of me. And I also did my regular science classes. I was so happy I got to experience other things and not just strictly science. With that I was able to bring in my own experiences, African culture, into Fort Hayes. Many of my friends know about my African background and culture. My best friends are diverse and are from everywhere. So diversity is a huge part of everything I do.
In school I knew I needed to put in more work. I started doing things that will make me study. During my lunch break I will go sit in my teacher’s classroom or counselor’s office. I will chat with them and learn from them. I was really not using my lunch time specifically for lunch.
I’ve always been close to my counselors. It was a good strategy that I used very well. With that I got information about my University. In my 8th grade in Middle school, we had a college prep class, and the school I did my research on was Miami University, Ohio State. In my research, I found out that it was one of the top undergraduate teaching schools. It is regarded as public ivy school.
I told my counselor in the High school that I wanted to go to Miami University and so when anything comes from the school, I was the first to be informed. In my junior year I attended the bridge’ program where you go to Miami University and spend few days. I applied for it and got a scholarship for attendding the event. I became a regular visitor to the school’s events. When it was time to apply to College, I applied to Miami University and nine other colleges. Once I received acceptance letter from Miami I took it.
My High school was different from my Middle school. My Middle school was one building that housed everything that we do. But my High school was an art and science school but also a career school. It is set up like a college campus. It is like a small community. We had the Mathematics building, art building, science building, dance building and music which also made it different from other High schools. I was the only one that went to Fort Hayes from my Middle school. I am also the only one in my set that attended Miami University.
In school I knew I needed to put in more work. I started doing things that will make me study. During my lunch break I will go sit in my teacher’s classroom or counselor’s office. I will chat with them and learn from them. I was really not using my lunch time specifically for lunch. I also did some tutoring and so while doing that I was also studying from what I was teaching. I rarely study at home. Usually I work. I go to work from school. I did a lot of study during school.
In Middle school, there was a problem. Kids make fun of you. I was able to deal with it. A big part of it is knowing your culture and being open to other cultures. I don’t agree with everyone sticking to his own culture. If you invest in others they will invest in you. If I get to know other people’s culture and how they do things, they will also want to know about my culture and how we do things.
Though in the first two years in Middle school I didn’t learn that probably because I was still trying to understand why they were making fun of my accent. My friends helped me a lot just being open to them. My parents were also open to having me invite my friends to the house. When they come over they eat what we have at home mostly things from our culture. Most times when we get to the door, I will whisper to them to say ‘Hi’ to my dad. They understand that. I teach them Nigerian food and about the culture. I was able to teach and learn from my friends. I understood them and not seeing their culture as a burden and at the same time not disposing of my culture. That helped me to be accepted better. I was able to balance both cultures. I got involved in a lot of after school activities. It went a long way to helping me integrate easily. I also did a lot of explanations especially about things we pronounce differently. Little things like that helped me a lot.
I started working the summer before I started High school. I was very young, about 15years old. I had to wear red at work so that they don’t send me to the grill, while others wore blue. I worked basically as cashier and at the drive through. I could only work 20hours. Work structured me in a way and it helped me to have things done in time. Being from Nigeria, you are always working.
I went to a driving school. My parents pushed for it. My mum took me to a driving school. I was involved in so many activities at the High school and it became too much for my parents to cope with. They had to be at work. I started driving myself to school from my junior year at High school. I remember being in the choir and we had to rehearse long hours. At a time when President Obama came to Columbus, it was my choir that sang the National Anthem at the event. I relied a lot on others to bring me back after rehearsal. It was great when I finally had my car. It helped me to manage my time better.
I had always said I wanted to be a medical doctor since I was little. At a point in High school I took an architecture class and I loved it. I told myself I would like to be an interior designer but I still wanted to be a doctor. Even with music and dance, I still wanted to be a doctor. That had led me. In college I chose pre-medicine and I love psychology. In my freshman year I chose psychology major and pre-medicine focus. In my sophomore year, I added pre-medicine to my major list and added neuroscience as minor. So I became a Psychology major with pre-medicine co-major and neuroscience minor. I got it done in four years. I had to be in school even during summer while others are on holiday. I was in school a lot, just studying and working. My counselors were encouraging too by guiding me on what to do.
I travel a lot. Sometimes my summer classes don’t start until two weeks after the Summer break. During that period I travel with my friends. A lot of my friends were not in my major. I lived within the diversity group in school. I mix a lot with them and learn from them. In my freshman year, I was the President of my Hall and I worked with a lot of Political science students. Through that I met my mentor who used to be the Mayor of Oxford. He was into Politics. I went to Washington DC and during the four days, we met a lot of government officials. Recreation for me is traveling. That is how I relax. It also helped me to learn about other people and their culture.
Right now, for three months I will be abroad, just traveling. Once I come back, I will start studying for my M-CAT (Medical College Admission Test). I will work a little to save some money and then apply to medical school. There are a lot of options in the medical school. I can always do research in neuroscience. I am also considering the graduate school. The schools I have in mind are the OSU, University of Cincinnati and my school.
It is picking the right group of friends. We were always in a competition within my group of friends for good reasons. We always wanted to score very high marks in tests and exams. My friends challenged me in so many ways.