I entered my first year of college like many students do, unsure of what career path I should take. I applied and was accepted to the Ohio State University as a nursing major. After completing my first semester I switched into a Biology and Pharmaceutical Sciences dual degree progam and truly enjoyed the coursework and working in this field. Then, I got introduced to research during my 3rd year. I took a course titled Therapeutic Frontiers, where Dr.Nicole Kwiek investigated a variety of therapeutic strategies. It was at this time that I learned of the discovery process for Natural Products such as aspirin and morphine, used to treat many common ailments.
Fast forward to my 4th year (of a 5 year program) I finally had the chance to study abroad! As a STEM student, I was unsure if I could sacrifice the time away from my university as many programs require degree-seeking courses to be taken at your home institution. Determination prevailed and I found the perfect study abroad opportunity. I spent a summer in Iringa, Tanzania taking Swahili, Microbiology of HIV course and conducting independent research.
In addition to counting towards my Biology degree, the Microbiology of HIV course solidifed my desire to work in the research field. We were able to learn about the HIV life cycle, treatment, prevention methods with the backdrop of being in a prevalent region. This component was invaluable as it can be difficult to understand the significance of certain topics within the confines of a laboratory or textbook.
For my independent research project, I focused on the use of traditional medicine in the treatment of Malaria. The rural nature of Iringa alongside many other factors lead citizens to relying on Traditional Healers as health care providers.
My study abroad experience allowed me to see what a public health career in a devloping country looks like first-hand. This motivated me to seek out a position with a institution who I saw had a impact in my host country.
I recommend Gilman Scholars who are currently abroad to make the most of their experience by making meaningful connections with their host country. This can be by making friends on campus or with their host family, getting involved with extracurricular activities and learning the language.