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  • Ashley Tangang Tamambang, Minnesota

We draw out plans but God has the eraser.

I was born into an average family and I was fortunate enough to get into a private primary school and a missionary secondary and high school. I always excelled in my academic work, and I was the best in the GCE Ordinary and Advanced Levels in my school, Our Lady of Lourdes College. I never found any difficulty or barrier until I wrote and unfortunately did not pass the common entrance into medical school in Cameroon. I always had one plan in my mind - get into medical school and graduate as a medical doctor. I did not really have immediate plans on traveling out of the country to further my studies. I was so sure of getting into the medical school that I did not bother about applying to schools abroad or writing other competitive entrance examinations into professional schools. Nonetheless, I did apply to the University of Bamenda (UBa) to study Biochemistry. To be honest, I did not like attending UBa – for I hated the class sizes, the class hours and the many francophone lecturers who could barely express themselves in English but had to teach us in English.

I still had the plan to rewrite the competitive entrance exam into medical school. Fortunately for me, my Dad had other plans for me. One morning, while he was sitting in his study room at home with the radio tuned on, he heard an announcement about Open Dreams. The next day, while he was driving home back from town, he passed by the Open Dreams Center to make sure he heard correctly. He is always the type to do his homework scrupulously. When he came back home, he told me about it and we headed to the Open Dreams Center the following day. This is when I got to meet Akaba James and also Joe Chacra, the Open Dreams fellow to Cameroon then. They were of great help in mentoring, registering, and preparing me for TOEFL and SAT tests. I thank God immensely for their help with these exams – I had very good scores. The two of them were of great help when I had to apply for colleges, scholarships, and to write very long essays for the different scholarship applications. To be honest, I was very reluctant to apply to some colleges just because I did not want to write a 500 word long personal statement though I finally had to. My hard work paid off and I was admitted into 4 colleges and I chose Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. I was given a partial scholarship to attend the school. On arrival at the school, I noticed it was a predominantly ‘white’ school with a demographic 2.9% black. Not that was my greatest challenge, but it was hard for me to integrate with the whites. My speech and accent were very difficult for the students in my school to understand, so making friends was very difficult. The faculty was always ready to lend me a helping hand and my love for my school deepened so quickly. Minnesota is in the Northern part of the USA and one of the 10 coldest states, so the weather was close to unbearable for me, coming from the equatorial region of the earth. No number of warm jackets and socks were sufficient for me to be warm. The food was not going well with me and I could write a whole long essay on that. I wasn’t so eager to step out during break periods because the food and the cold were unpalatable to me.

Despite all these, I eventually made friends, I started loving the food and became accustomed to the weather. Looking back at what I have gone through, I thank God for failing the entrance into medical school in Cameroon, because without failing, I probably would never have met the incredible team of Open Dreams and I could not have been here right now studying pre-medicine.

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