My name is Jada Chambers, and I do not belong here. Where is here? I don’t know. I think it’s the house I grew up in, or maybe it’s the quiet southern suburb where everyone marries someone who went to their highschool. Here could also be Mississippi, a place where a few people still believe everyone in the world should speak English, especially in the United States. Maybe here is Georgia, or Dekalb County, or Emory. Maybe it’s the United States. Maybe here is anywhere but there. Where is there? That’s easy. There is a town in the French Riviera, with a classroom full of children eager to learn English. There is a publishing house in Paris where French novels are waiting to be translated. There is a French cinema company with movies that need to be subtitled. There is where I want to be, where I must be.
In my tiny Southern community, moving out of town to trade it in for a big city is almost unheard of to anyone over the age of thirty. My town is a place where, if you stay too long, you will die where you were born. It’s a place where people never travel more than a state or two away in any direction. Some people are okay with that, and that’s fine. I am not some people. I do not want to die in the same town I was born, not without seeing what lies beyond the quaint houses built in the 60s, the supermarkets, and the crepe myrtle trees found in the front yard of any respectable southern family. I love my hometown, I know it will always be there to catch me if I fall, but I would not be able to live with myself if I didn’t at least try to see what else the world has to offer. However, if my father has taught me anything, you can never, “have a want in one hand and a wish in the other.” I couldn’t just wish I was somewhere else, I had to make it happen. Thankfully, I was raised by two people who always told me if I wanted something, I could make it happen, even the impossible.
When I was applying to colleges a little over a year ago, I applied to six in total, and every single college I applied to (with the exception of just one institution) was out of state. One of those colleges was Emory. It was an expensive, elite private school– seemingly out of reach for someone from one of the lowest ranked states in education, and one of the highest in poverty. When I told people I had applied, and later, was attending, Emory, they usually asked, “What’s Emory?” If they knew what Emory was, they raised their eyebrows in disbelief. How could someone from here get into Emory? I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I like to think it was because, despite our low income, my parents still pushed and encouraged me to take my wants and my wishes and turn them into realities. A Fulbright grant would help me turn another wish into reality. It would help make sure I don’t die in the place I was born, at least not without taking me from here to there first.