Navigating graduate school as an international, first-generation student

By Gibson Kirui, Ph.D. candidate in chemistry

I came to the United States about three years ago as an international student. I underwent a rigorous application and admission process that involved a lot of sacrifice and hard work. Despite all the challenges that came my way, I was very committed to pursue it because that was my all-time dream. To the best of my knowledge, I knew there was no other country worldwide that would provide me with the same academic and future career opportunities as the U.S. I came to Wayne State University with very high expectations, and I am excited that so far, studying here has given me the opportunity to study what I like (chemistry), liberty to express my views, freedom to believe that nothing is impossible if I work hard for it and pursue it with passion and commitment.

Wayne State University and the Department of Chemistry have set a great platform for me to pursue my chemical research as a Ph.D. student by providing the facilities and great mentorship to facilitate my academic journey. Additionally, WSU has given me a sense of being in a very diverse community and as an international student, I believe that I can enrich and add value to the community in a tangible way. The chemistry department has specifically given me a platform to accomplish this through engagements with the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) Wayne State University Chapter. Through NOBCChE, I have been able to engage with underrepresented K-12 students within Detroit to socialize and recruit them to STEM and promote careers in science and technology and even help with tutoring. I also believe as an international student that I have so far added the value to the community around WSU in intangible ways including the knowledge, diverse perspectives, exchange of culture, language, and innovative thinking.

These attributes are priceless to me as an international student and have given me a boost in my graduate school life. I cannot forget to mention that finding an understanding research advisor has been something I will always be grateful for. Thanks to my advisor, Dr. Claudio Verani for being a great mentor and being so understanding to me as an international student. My decision to come to Wayne State University and joining the very diverse Verani research group will remain my best decision ever. Currently, I spend most part of my time in the lab working on my chemical research for my dissertation and I envision to complete this academic journey on time.

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