Written by Brianna Furey ’15
After lactose intolerance demolished a childhood dream of being a Cold Stone Creamery taste tester, and the dim reality set in that becoming a professional soccer player wasn’t going to happen, Hasanga Samaraweera, better known as “Hassie” by family and friends, has had a career goal to be a doctor. Hassie grew up in North Dakota, and his older brother decided to attend Gustavus. To avoid following exactly in his brother’s footsteps, Hassie not only applied to Gustavus, but to other schools across the country as well. After a few of his brother’s friends came for a visit, he witnessed “the amazing relationships they all had developed,” and that became a big draw in his choosing to come to Gustavus. “Other than that,” he says, “I think I realized the small school atmosphere was where I would thrive.” And, four short years later, he became a 2011 Gustavus graduate, ready to take on a new challenge.
When his immediate plans to attend medical school fell through, Hassie began to search for programs in Europe that would be meaningful to his education and future career. But he also wanted a little adventure. With the help of Alisa Rosenthal, a Gustavus political science professor and head of the Gustavus Fellowships Office, Hassie researched and applied to numerous programs in Europe. “I crafted various essays and jumped through the sometimes ridiculous hoops,” he recalls. Finally, after hours and hours of persistence and hard work, he was awarded a scholarship from Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), to study public health in Germany. In many ways, Gustavus prepared him for this next adventure in life.
According to Hassie, “The school side of Gustavus definitely taught me how to work hard and gave me the confidence to tackle any kind of project knowing that I am intelligent and capable enough to succeed in it.” He had been involved with the Gustie Greeters, the Writing Center, and TAG, and these organizations allowed him to meet people from all walks of life. Studying abroad in Florence, Italy, during his sophomore year and in Sri Lanka the following summer prepared him for the potential culture shock of studying in Germany. But the main thing Hassie credits Gustavus with is giving him his incredible friends. “They’ve supported my decision to come here even though it has meant being an ocean away from them, and even in my times of doubt, they have been there to affirm my desire to venture down this path (perfectly straight and uniform like any good German path should be).” And now, with all Gustavus has taught him, and with the support of his friends, Hassie is beginning his adventure in Germany.
Hassie says that once you get to know the German people, “they are extremely genuine, kind, and just straight up wonderful.” Not coming back to Gustavus this fall was a little sad for him. But, after a visit to campus before leaving for Germany, he realized that it wasn’t quite the same without his close friends and roommates on-campus: “It was kind of a freeing feeling to know that my old life at Gustavus, which was incredible, wasn’t a legitimate possibility anymore.”
His future plans include, in some way, to work in healthcare. Hassie said that being a pediatrician “sounds incredible,” as becoming a doctor has always been a dream of his. He will do something in the public health field before applying again to medical school. So while some childhood dreams may not make the cut, such as being a Cold Stone Creamery taste tester, others are far more accessible. For Hassie, that dream is becoming a doctor; and through all Gustavus taught him and the fellowship he is about to undertake, that dream is much closer to becoming a reality.
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