Ryan Lattibeaudiere Small has had many dreams; not least among them was a desire to become a priest as well as bishop of the Anglican church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
Never in his wildest dream, however, did he consider some things.
“I never thought that, of all countries, I would have been studying in China and in Chinese,” said Small, who recently completed his four-year Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management at Nanjing Agricultural University.
He is now gearing up for a three-year Master’s programme also in China.
“There were times when I felt like giving up; there are times when giving up would be easy,” Small said. “But giving up was not an option.”
He explained that, besides the culture shock he experienced, one of his toughest tasks was to learn the Chinese language.
“I had no prior knowledge of Chinese until I got here in China. In fact, when I got here, I literally felt like a fish out of water,” Small explained.
His first year in China was spent studying the language. At the end of it, he scored a whopping 214 out of 300 marks. The pass mark is 180.
“You can never know any Chinese language too well, and that is how dynamic the language is,” Small noted. “I am now at a comfortable level.”
He told Jamaica Beacon that, about five years ago, the Chinese government was awarding scholarships to Jamaicans through a partnership between both countries. He was among seven Jamaicans selected.
Small was more interested in the opportunity than in the environment.
He, however, is now a crusader of sorts for environmental protection.
“Taking care of the environment is everybody’s business; it is something that we must make a priority,” Small emphatically said. “I don’t think Jamaicans respect and appreciate the environment that much.”
Now armed with information and passion, Small, a former chairman of the National Youth Council of Jamaica, is poised to make a big difference.
“Where I am today is because of the investment in me by my country, and so I believe it is my duty to return and contribute to my country’s development,” said the past-student of Rousseau Primary School and Jamaica College.
Small, a known supporter of the People’s National Party, also has a penchant for politics.
“For some strange reason, politics is something that I can never stay too far away from,” he said.
The St Andrew native, who lost his father Henry Small to cancer about six years ago, is the son of Sherla McKoy Small. He is grateful to the governments of Jamaica and China, and to the relatives and friends who have helped to keep him going.
“I want people to see me and what I have achieved as something I would have worked for; not to see me as someone living in the shadow of another person,” Small further said.
By Horace Mills, Journalist