From South Sudan to Yale
by Nichola D. Kristof
Paul Lorem epitomizes a blunt truth about the world: talent is universal, but opportunity is not.
Lorem, 21, is an orphan from a South Sudanese village with no electricity. His parents never went to school, and he grew up without adult supervision in a refugee camp. Now he’s a freshman at Yale University.
All around the world, remarkable young men and women are on edge because today they finally hear of admissions decisions from Yale and a number of other highly competitive universities. So a word of encouragement: No one ever faced longer odds than Paul Lorem, and he made it.
“How I got to Yale was pure luck, combined with lots of people helping me,” Lorem told me as we sat in a book-lined study on the Yale campus. “I had a lot of friends who maybe had almost the same ability as me, but, due to reasons I don’t really understand, they just couldn’t make it through. If there’s one thing I wish, it’s that they had more opportunity to get education.”
Lorem’s family comes from a line of cattle-herders in the southeastern part of South Sudan. The area is remote. Villagers live in thatch-roof huts, and there is no functioning school or health clinic. The nearest paved road is several days’ walk away.