Everywhere but Trinidad

August 30, 2006

When I was in secondary school studying Economics, I learned about the ‘brain drain’. Back then, I was easily distracted and amused, so the term ‘brain drain’ didn’t make me think, it only made me laugh. I had no idea that I might eventually become part of the problem. But all that changed once I left home for a U.S. college in 1998.

According to Wikipedia, a brain drain refers to

“an emigration of trained and talented individuals for other nations or jurisdictions, due to conflict or lack of opportunity or health hazards where they are living. Investment in higher education is lost when the trained individual leaves, usually not to return. …

At one point, I think it was back when I was at Barry University, I was sure I would return home. I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else. My mother and sister still lived in Trinidad at the time so obviously I’d return to be with them. Trinidad wasn’t under the control of some ruthless goverment, neither was the country overrun with crime and poverty (I know, the crime situation is something else now) so I didn’t feel a strong need to remain in the U.S. like I was escaping something terrible or incurable.
It saddens me to think that the majority of my friends (the girls I went to school with and those who I danced with) and I are contributing to this brain drain. No, we’re not bad people. My friends and I love Trinidad as much as the next Trini. The truth? Well, most of us left to attend college. After A’s, my choice was easy. I didn’t go to U.W.I. so I can’t talk about how good or bad it is but I know that you couldn’t get in if you didn’t do well enough on your A’Level Exams and it was impossible to apply to without those scores. The other thing with U.W.I. is that your choice of major depends on the subjects you studied for A’s. I wanted the freedom to choose whatever major and/or minor I wanted, including dance. So I went to college in the States instead and so did many of my friends. I minored in Dance, something that I am sure I would not have been able to do if I stayed in Trinidad.

That brings up the question of the arts. What happens if you grow up in Trinidad wanting to become a professional dancer? Could it really happen? Could you make a living as a dancer in Trinidad? There are a few terrific dance schools that churn out amazing dancers. I studied at the Caribbean School of Dance (CSD) and danced with the Metamorphosis Dance Company.

My friend Zara, also studied at CSD and is majorly talented, so talented that she’s now the Dance Captain of Lion King in London. She’s doing well for herself and I’m proud of her. I mention her because she’s an example of why talented Trinis leave Trinidad. Making a good living as an artist in Trinidad is hard. Some people make it work. For instance, you may not be able to live comfortably as a professional dancer but you can try to find a teaching job and hope for the best.

So what do you think?


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