I’m more like my father than I am my mother. He was also very much a math person and so was his sister, who I got the math gene from. My father loved math. Growing up, he was the person who helped me with math. He was the person that made me love math, just hearing him talk about it. I also danced on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. My mom was like a dance mom because I danced for 10 or 11 years. She was the one who would always go and watch me dance during practices. Some memories that stand out for me is my dad picking my mom and me up from practice, and then just doing homework and working on math problems in the living room after.
At the end of each academic year, there is a top ten ranking of students in the Caribbean for each subject. For two years, I ranked first in the Caribbean for math. I ended up meeting the mayor and other politicians.
In those moments, it felt like this ranking was more important to the people who were putting their hopes and dreams towards what I could be. It was kind of rare for this to happen, given my circumstances and where I was from.
My life growing up was not very affluent, which was something I noticed the older I got. I know my parents always worked hard and I never felt like I needed anything. I went to a high school in Jamaica that was noted as very privileged, Campion College, where a lot of politicians’ children would go. As I got older, I noticed a duality in where I came from and what my parents had, versus what other people had. I still never felt like I was lacking in any way. That prepared me for Dartmouth in lots of ways, where this magnitude of difference in affluence and wealth is even more heightened.
The whole King Scholarship program seemed amazing. I knew that math was going to get progressively harder and if it’s something that I didn’t like doing, I would end up going back to medical school, and that would be four years wasted. I had to get out of that mindset, that all my friends would be in Jamaica and I wouldn’t be home. I was afraid when I went to university and pursued math, where it’s even more challenging, that I would all of a sudden not be good at it anymore. I think that was one of the fears holding me back. I knew that I had made the right choice to go to Dartmouth, when it was a whole year after I finished high school and I was working in Washington DC for my freshman internship. I would never have had those opportunities I had at Dartmouth if I was back home: to do internships, travel, and do things that I enjoy. My transition to Dartmouth was so easy. I feel like people enter university expecting to only bond with those who they’re related to, in terms of their own heritage or where they’re from. For me, it was the opposite. I felt like I bonded with the people I least expected. That being said, one of my closest friends is Tyler, another King Scholar, a Jamaican who went to my high school.
I’ve definitely thought of maybe going into academia, or going back home and doing math research. More recently, I’ve thought about how I can use applications of math for physics and different physical problems. What I have realized with math and the importance of math to me is that it’s what I enjoy doing. Before, it felt like a lot of raw talent, something hereditary. I felt like math came naturally to me. Coming to Dartmouth, it felt like this is what I was supposed to do. It makes me feel like I’m actually doing something meaningful.
Abigail Cameron is a King Scholar at Dartmouth College (’20). She majors in Math and Physics, and is originally from Jamaica.