The kitchen table in my family home isn’t just a kitchen table. Sure, my family eats there, but it’s also the place where my dad reviews his patient charts and schedule for the week and where he reads his dental journals.
I had the easy path into dentistry. Growing up with a family full of dentists and relatives working in the field of dentistry, it was easy to get an inside view of the profession and learn early on that it appealed to me.
A small fish in a big pond — that’s what I felt like. Despite being so excited to attend UCLA, I couldn’t help but feel lost in a crowd of highly accomplished people and plagued by a mild case of imposter syndrome. But your college experience is what you make out of it, and I was determined to live out my undergraduate years to its fullest potential.
There is one constant that everyone searches for in life — protection. For me, that search began when I held the winning lottery ticket in my hand: an immigration acceptance letter to America randomly given to 10,000 families (out of 1.7 million applicants) each year.
Growing up in Kfarhazir, Lebanon, I have always counted on my family for support. They are the reason why I am in my final year of dental school in the United States, graduating with a dual degree in dentistry and a master’s in public health in May.
I was 17 when I left my family behind in the Philippines. I vividly remember tirelessly crying on the plane, only to wake up 14 hours later to the starry lights that lit up the San Francisco hills. By the time I got out of the terminal, it was 3 a.m. I anxiously waited for my ride, clutching onto the two bulky suitcases I packed my entire life into.
“Start fast. Finish strong.” These are the words around which my college career revolved. My 5 a.m. alarm frequently came as a scare to me Monday through Friday. My nights were spent falling asleep while reviewing lecture notes from organic chemistry and physiology as well as our football team’s weekly game plan installed that week.