What are you up to now that you have graduated?
Right now I actually got accepted into a Masters of Medical Science program at IUPUI ; for me it’s supposed to be a bridge program into IU’s Medical School. Just earlier this month I completed my application to medical school and now I’m studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test).
When do you start that?
It’s already started now! We had an MCAT prep class which was all online this year, but it was super helpful. The fall is when the rest of our courses start, but there is this summer prep, 4-credit hour, pass-fail course for the MCAT prep.
It’s supposed to jumpstart your preparation for medical school?
Essentially yeah--it’s for underrepresented minorities in medicine or financially, educationally disadvantaged students that need some help in their application. The program can give them some extra boost: something to get them into medical school.
It’s really meant to help provide that bridge to underrepresented students who are not currently as present in the field of healthcare and to increase diversity within medicine and healthcare professions.
How did you first get introduced to study abroad as an option for your college experience?
Honestly, just through an email. I knew IU was really big on studying abroad but I didn’t know it was something I was interested in. It wasn’t until I got an email from OVPDEMA. The first study abroad trip I went on the summer after my freshman year was to Brazil. It was a two-week OVPDEMA trip. I was looking at it, and they had really cool pictures and course descriptions. I didn’t really know what I was doing for the summer and so I thought, ‘Why not go to the call out meeting; see what it’s about?’ Turned out it was something I thought was really cool, especially because the program eases the burden on students because they plan the travel for you. I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to get there, what I was going to do there, what I was going to eat. OVPDEMA plans that all for you.
Since it was my first time studying abroad, that really influenced my decision because I didn’t know what I was doing!
Would you say you were interested in doing a longer program?
From that experience not only did I appreciate the opportunity to experience different cultures, but also the connections I developed with other students and faculty members. It’s one thing when you are studying in a classroom, and it’s a completely different thing when you are studying across the world. I feel like you have a unique opportunity to build relationships in an OVPDEMA program.
That definitely made me more comfortable to pursue a longer trip because I don’t know if I would have my first time studying abroad. I feel like I would have been too apprehensive to leave the country.
It definitely helped me get my toes in the water. Knowing what I was getting into and what I should expect out of these experiences.
Did you do more study abroad programs after that first one?
Actually, I did a lot, I went every summer. I went to Brazil after my freshman year. After my sophomore year, I did an IU sponsored program I found through the study abroad website. I was just going through the different programs and there was a public health one in Botswana which related to my minor in Global Health Promotion. In that program you get shadowing opportunities that are related to my intended career as well. I applied for that, and I was in Botswana for two months.
I loved that experience. I got to live with a host family. That was a different perspective. If I’m going there, I might as well experience as much as possible.
I got the best family, too. I’m super glad I decided to do that. They were so helpful, and I learned a lot about the culture. I still keep in contact with them to this day.
After my junior year, I went to Paris for two weeks through the Hutton Honors College, and then I did IU2U for two weeks as well.
Do you think those experiences, being abroad, and studying while abroad helped inform your career at all?
Absolutely! I think especially for those going into healthcare, cultural competency is one of the main components of being a good physician or being a good healthcare professional, and studying abroad was something that actually helped me stand out in my application.
Because I had those experiences traveling abroad, it kind of helped me articulate these things. It’s funny because they have a website with the four competencies for medical school and the second is cultural competency.
I feel like if I had not pursued these experiences, I would not have had that unique, competitive advantage in the medical school application process.
It’s not something a lot of people have done, especially pre-medicine students. We are so focused sometimes on research, how to make our applications the best, trying to get the best grades. I also wanted to make sure I exposed myself to diverse populations, so when I become a physician I can better relate to my future patients. Being able to listen and not have those biases in the back of your head with patients coming in is crucial.
What is the benefit of studying abroad in terms of engaged learning?
As Americans, I think we are sometimes really set on our own perspective and our own bubble. Studying abroad you learn about the world through someone else's perspective, and you really get a sense of what their obstacles are, what their experiences are through their lens.
For me it was refreshing to not be so focused on myself and my own problems and kind of get a better understanding of things happening around the world. Because it’s one thing when you are watching the news and thinking ‘on this is happening here, oh that’s sad or that’s good,’ and it’s another thing when you are in the culture, interacting with the people and learning, visualizing and hearing how it impacts them as fellow human beings.
And for me as a future healthcare worker, I really value people's perspectives and their stories. So actually getting the chance to hear that first hand helped me learn more about people's experiences and how everyone has a context. Even if we don’t see it—even if we don’t understand it—doesn’t mean that context doesn’t exist.
When I was with IU2U in Asia, I went in asking how I was going to connect with these students, but at the end of the day we ended up liking the same music or had the same experiences in school through science courses.
Especially in relation to healthcare, we want the same things. We all want to be treated fairly, we all want to be listened to, we all want to be heard. Knowing that at the end of the day we all value the same underlying principles shows we are really not that different.