"I witnessed the immense resilience that single mothers and immigrants exhibit."
Hannah, Brown University

Hannah Kimmel

Hometown: Grand Junction, CO

Brown University

In rural Colorado, my mother taught me the value of education. While I was in middle and high school, she took evening classes at the local university to earn her own Bachelor’s degree at age 54. Without my older brother, already away in college, and my father, already deceased, I witnessed the immense resilience that single mothers and immigrants — and especially a person who is the combination of the two — exhibit for their loved ones. I was aware of my mother’s profound dedication to education while working full-time to support us, as I was aware that spending money was a serious affair equated with even more work for her. College application fees, let alone the cost of attending college itself, sometimes felt insurmountable.

QuestBridge let me dream of the best schools. By removing the financial burden of college applications, and hopefully the entire college experience, I was able to see for myself where I was capable of studying. Unlike many of my friends, my mother (born and raised in Panama) didn’t have the first-hand experience of applying to American universities, and the college application process seemed even more impossible without her experience to help guide me as well. I wasn’t matched at one of my top-eight schools, but without restrictions, I clicked on the Brown University logo. It now seems impossible that I could have considered anywhere other than my dear Brunonia for my undergraduate (and eventually graduate) years!

Before Brown I had never encountered such prevalent wealth. In my first year, I routinely felt out-of-place. My community at Brown gave me a groundedness that came from solidarity and acceptance. When I couldn’t afford to fly home for holidays, there were other QuestBridge scholars who understood those financial constraints. We had our own Thanksgiving, thankful for mutual understanding and warmth away from home. These interactions made Brown seem less gilded and imposing.

Academically, I studied linguistics and French, but I remained drawn to medicine and health care. Succeeding at Brown was infinitely more challenging for me than doing so in Grand Junction, Colorado, and there were times when I felt that my acceptance must have been a fluke. Having friends, peers, sorority sisters, teammates, and the QuestBridge network to lean on during those times help build my confidence and foster my understanding of systemic differences in education across the country (among numerous other things). The atmosphere and conversations at Brown have certainly exposed me to more than I thought possible when I got my acceptance envelope back on the Western Slope.

After teaching English in Mauritius and studying abroad in Paris, I finished my four undergraduate years at Brown. After quickly developing a deep interest in public health thanks to the enigmatic lecturers in the department, I applied to the Master of Public Health program. During my MPH, I was grateful to further my education with the familiar surrounding of College Hill and greater Providence. Years ago, I wasn’t “matched” at Brown, but the scholarship I received from the University was close to the same package, meaning that signing up for graduate school loans was not nearly as daunting as it could have been. QuestBridge not only helped me receive funding for my undergraduate degree, but also lifted a psychological weight of financial strain that may have precluded my graduate education.

My academic career at Brown still feels surreal yet I am reminded of all the opportunities that were, and will be, within my reach. Brown shaped me as a scholar and a researcher, a linguist and an epidemiologist. QuestBridge shaped me as a friend and a leader, cognizant of limitations but confident in the ability to surmount them. My family, of course, shaped me most of all — as a dedicated and passionate global citizen, always eager to learn.

Hannah Kimmel graduated from Brown University in 2015 with an AB in Linguistics and received a MPH in Epidemiology at Brown University School of Public Health in 2017.