Irene Oliveira had just completed her first year of medical school in her homeland of Cape Verde when she started preparing to move to the United States with her mother. Leaving her older siblings, friends, and the life she had always known behind, Irene resolved to continue pursuing a medical degree here in the States. However, due to her limited command of the English language and the difference in education requirements, officials advised that Irene return to high school.
“It was hard when I first came here,” Irene admits. Immigrants, like Irene, often encounter legal obstacles when they are trying to further education or find jobs in the U.S. In part because of credential requirements, many immigrants are forced to enroll at a more regressive stage in their education or even to find work below their education level, and often at lower wages. Irene’s experience was discouraging, but her desire to practice medicine was paramount. She began to make strides in the requirements for enrolling in high school in Boston; which included a physical and blood testing. When Irene sat with the Phlebotomist, an RCC alum, she was encouraged to visit the college and explain her circumstances.
Upon her visit to RCC, Irene enrolled and received the necessary financial aid to study Biology Science and improve her English language speaking and writing skills. Reflecting on her first few months, Irene confides, “I had knowledge of the human body, but I needed to learn English.”
Irene enrolled in full-time courses while working at Walgreens to support herself and help family back home, and became a part of the community as a student on-campus. She actively participated in class discussions, joined clubs, and eventually became a member of the Honor Society all while balancing her commitments off-campus.
It is that same ambition that led to her earning a scholarship for two years’ tuition at Boston University, where she enrolled as a junior in Fall 2019. At BU, Irene intends to continue studying Biology on the pre-medical track. While the route to becoming a clinician does not look the way she’d imagined, she is excited to continue her studies and embark on a rewarding career.