“Something that I really miss from home is the community that we have. I never feel lost when I’m back home because everyone has a sense of attachment to each other. Most importantly, I miss the jokes that my dad and mom usually share when we are watching TV or when we’re eating and when something is happening in the community.
Living here has made me think about the opportunities that we don’t give to women in Ghana. In grade school, I didn’t even know that a woman could be called a doctor. I thought that a woman who is a doctor was called a nurse so I thought that most of the intelligent girls in my school were just aspiring to be nurses. At that point, if a girl in my class said she wanted to be a nurse, that was a great aspiration for her. That’s not okay. Everyone can be a doctor and everyone can be an engineer. It shouldn’t just be the work of just men. I now think about equality and how to really enforce it back home.
One thing that has impacted me during this pandemic is learning how to deal with uncertainty. You ask yourself, when will I be able to visit my family again? When will I be able to take in-person classes? Will I be able to complete my major early enough? How do I deal with being alone and taking care of myself? It seems like everyone and everything is just like falling apart. The most negative impact was on my mental health. It’s hard to come to terms with all the crazy things that are happening. You wake up, you check how the numbers are doing and they are going up. It can be uncomfortable because there’s a lot of uncertainty, but I cannot overlook the numerous growth experiences that come with it. This pandemic has taught me how to enjoy my own company and have the time to breathe and think about myself while extending a hand to support others.
I grew up in Kumasi, Ghana. I spent the first 19 years of my life there. My dad was a mechanic and my mom was a trader. I knew there were a lot of people who had a lot of resources, but I never felt disadvantaged in terms of the quality of education that I was getting and the living conditions. I grew up in a family of eight, so I have seven siblings. I’m the only son of my mom. It was a good dynamic to have seven other siblings who served as mentors for me.
My brother graduated from Dartmouth in 2019. Seeing him graduate and get into a prestigious college was something that motivated me to do the same. I was lucky to have a brother who wasn’t afraid to dream. The community that we grew up in didn’t have anyone who aspired to attend the best high school in our region and then go on to pursue education somewhere outside of the country. In the future, I want to financially support a cohort of students from my community and to provide a mentorship network for them.
The biggest dream that I’ve thought of is having an educational institution of my own that would support people who aspire to learn and reach their aspirations.
Irrespective of your major, I feel you can inspire people. The lessons that you learn from your education are really transferable. Coming to Dartmouth, there were a lot of instances where I doubted whether I can be an engineer because it looked so complicated. People are building these amazing things from almost nothing. After I built my first robot—which was a car that could respond to boundaries— it was very inspiring. It’s very impactful to have the mindset that anything can be done when you try and that it is okay to fail.
Being an engineer and being able to fulfill your own aspirations is something that gives you the power and the resources to support people. They say you can’t really pour from an empty cup. If you really want to help people, you have to aspire to help yourself and achieve as much as you can to then use your story to help people. You can’t just go back home and be like, “I studied in the U.S., I’m back.” What are you showing? Will people be willing to buy into your aspirations?
Akwasi Akosah is a King Scholar at Dartmouth College (’21). He majors in Computer Engineering and is from Kumasi, Ghana.