Valedictorian, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Akiera Paterson, says November 2 is not only a special day for her because it is her birthday and she will be presenting the valedictorian speech, but it is the day that completes her dream of studying in Jamaica.
She left her home in the tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, and travelled to Jamaica to pursue a bachelor’s degree with a major in integrated marketing communication (IMC) and a minor in entertainment and cultural enterprise management.
With all the alert messages of crime in Jamaica, Ms. Paterson said she was not deterred from the island. She knew she wanted to study in Jamaica, especially at the Caribbean’s premier media school – the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC).
“I wanted to attend a university in the Caribbean, and I was particularly attracted to UWI, Mona because of CARIMAC and the IMC programme. I read about it online and was immediately sold. Additionally, I have been to several Caribbean countries, but never Jamaica, so being able to experience the culture was an additional benefit, and that’s why I chose to be here,” Ms. Paterson tells JIS News.
“I absolutely adored studying and living in Jamaica over these past three years. I have made friends here that have become family; I consider Jamaica my second home. The country’s culture was always something that interested me, partly because I love reggae music and escovitch fish. Before coming to the UWI, I had never been to Jamaica, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to pack my life into two suitcases and move to Jamaica,” she says.
Before coming to Jamaica, she pursued an Associate of Arts Degree in Social Science from TA Marryshow Community College in Grenada, with a focus in Caribbean & European History, Geography and Sociology.
Ms. Paterson now serves as the Marketing and Communications Manager for Sunshine Promotions Grenada.
“I have been working [with this organisation] for about five years, even while attending UWI. It is a Grenadian entertainment and sound company,” she says.
Ms. Paterson tells JIS News that she would motivate other Caribbean nationals, especially in small countries, to take a leap of faith, travel to Jamaica and experience a full-time University, other than pursuing Jamaican University courses online, because there are great networking opportunities in the island, in addition to the entertainment and leisure available.
“Jamaica is such a beautiful place, but the experience I had while attending UWI was priceless. Jamaicans are some of the warmest people I have ever met, from my classmates to the taxi men who shared their life stories with me. There was never a day that I spent in Jamaica that I did not feel welcome or at home, and I mean that from the depth of my heart,” she says.
“The culture of the country is so rich, and the ambition and tenacity of Jamaicans are nothing short of inspirational. It is such a creative space and I can feel it reverberating in the atmosphere. I have nothing but fond memories and I am sure that anyone who studies here will grow to appreciate the stories of the country’s people and the community that we all share as Caribbean people,” Ms. Paterson adds.
She says Jamaicans treated her as family during her stay in the island, and helped her to pull through many challenges, just as much as her family back home would have done.
Ms. Paterson now wants to pursue her master’s degree in global media communication and another one in the cultural and creative industries.
“I believe that culture and creativity are what unite us organically as Caribbean people, and my dream is to see creative Caribbean people realise economic freedom through their innate abilities. I also hope to start my own communications agency in the near future,” she tells JIS News.