Growing up, Dalal Alnassar rarely smiled. Behind her seemingly sad demeanor was the immense weight of embarrassment due to her imperfect smile. But after receiving dental care, the Kuwait native felt her shame evaporate and her confidence and happiness grow. Now she could unabashedly smile, a feeling that would ignite her passion for dentistry.
“After my smile was fixed, I felt a change in my personality,” she said. “I want to be able to give someone that happiness, that confidence, especially in my home community in Kuwait.”
Beginning her journey
Growing up in Kuwait, Alnassar saw several members of her family attend college in the United States.
“All of my cousins and uncles studied here in the U.S.,” said Alnassar. “After seeing their experience, I always wanted to do that, too. Coming to study here gives you the chance to learn new things and new cultures. Also, if you have a degree from the United States, you can work anywhere.”
After growing up in a tight-knit family as an only child, Alnassar also wanted to branch out of her bubble.
“In Kuwait, children live with their parents much longer than they do in Western cultures,” she said. “I am used to doing everything with my family, living with them, traveling with them. I wanted to come here to prove that I can do everything on my own.”
When deciding where to study in the United States, she ultimately chose Colorado because of its beautiful outdoors. In 2013, she was accepted into the University of Colorado Denver and then at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in the dental school, as part of the Kuwait BS/DDS Program.
After a tough learning curve of adjusting to the culture, Alnassar settled in Denver and found that her aspirations were coming true. She excelled through undergrad and professional school, all the while developing the independence she was looking for.
‘Opportunity to explore’
“Dental school really gave me personal growth,” she said. “Even though I lived in Colorado, I didn’t start liking hiking until I was in dental school. I found that I loved it. I had the chance to get really close with my classmates, which I was so thankful for. Once I had my feet on the ground after undergrad, I really had the opportunity to explore. Traveling with friends is very different from what I was used to; it really helped me to learn to depend on myself.”
Now that she has completed her degree, Alnassar will head back to Kuwait for residency.
“Leaving Colorado is a bittersweet feeling for me,” she said. “I have loved my time in the U.S., in Colorado. I’ll especially miss the culture and the weather. But I’m looking forward to putting my education and skills into practice. I know that I’ll soon help create new and improved smiles that will beam with pride.”
Guest contributor: Blair Ilsley is a 2018 graduate of the CU Anschutz Graduate School.