ABC: Anything But Class

As I mentioned last week when I was describing my course schedule for the semester, I’m taking more independent classes this term. These less structured courses are a new experience in my academic career and I’m nervous-excited as I venture into this personally new unknown. Hopefully, I’ll be able to manage my time and work well enough to not go crazy come November.

One of the two of my more independent classes is GHHP 91r (Global Health and Health Policy Supervised Reading and Research). The goal of the class is to write a mini-thesis on a topic of choice under the supervision of a faculty adviser who is there to help focus my topic as well as grade me at the end of the term. I’ve (tentatively) chosen to continue my topic from the summer when I was performing clinical trials about maternal health and nutrition (vitamin A/iron supplementation during pregnancy within malaria-endemic regions). However, I’ve been unable to secure an adviser as of yet. I’ve been emailing and meeting with people like crazy and I have (false?) confidence that I’ll find an adviser eventually, but this process has been much more difficult than I anticipated and thus, I have been a bit discouraged.

Good thing this discouragement doesn’t carry over from classes to my extracurricular activities! This week of school has been focused on my “work” outside of the classroom.

In my search for a global health adviser, I was directed to a Harvard initiative about raising awareness about malaria. There’s actually a competition open to all Harvard affiliates and I’ve gathered 3 of my friends to form a team with me and enter. When I first perused the article and found out about the competition, I definitely thought it was cool, but something I would never enter due to no time/thinking I would never win. However, I still attended their informational session and ran into some friends there. We threw around the idea of forming a team and I’ve been super determined to enter with a great idea. We don’t have any ideas yet though — but we’ve been having a blast trying to come up with some! Okay, so most of our meeting time is spent joking around and relaying stories, but the few serious minutes we had were pretty productive. We’ve scheduled a meeting with the head of Malaria No More and intend to schedule many more with professors and whatnot.

I’ve not only never entered into a contest of this sort, but also wouldn’t have seen myself doing something like this. I’m getting really excited about my team though since we come from many backgrounds (life sciences, economics, education, computer science), it’s been really useful to bounce ideas off of each other!

This Defeating Malaria contest is definitely more of an academic extracurricular. However, I’m also involved with the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) which is an umbrella organization running a bunch of programs geared towards public service and volunteering in the community. Mentoring was a huge part of my high school years; I mentored elementary students afterschool all throughout high school. When I moved across the country for college, I knew I wanted to continue mentoring and the opportunity to mentor the heavy immigrant population in Dorchester was perfect because it would also help keep my Vietnamese language ability alive.

I joined the Teen sector of the BRYE (Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment) program during my freshman fall and started directing the program the following year. At the beginning of each semester, PBHA programs like BRYE work diligently to recruit student volunteers. I spent a lot of time this week interviewing applicants. I’ve also stressed the importance of recruting mentees this year so I’ve been calling a lot of families in Dorchester and utilizing my proficiency in both Vietnamese and Spanish. BRYE has truly been the best application of my language abilities and I love it!

One more “extracurricular” that I’ve tacked onto my schedule for my senior year has been trying to find something to do post-graduation. My plan is medical school, but not immediately. I’m hoping to fill in my gap year(s?) with something related to the medical field and hopefully this different insight will help me become a better practicing doctor when the time comes! Besides from looking into research fellowships, I’ve also been on the job hunt for healthcare consulting/tech firms. I’ve never actually sought out a job before and this whole process of networking and interviewing has been intimidating! I had a phone interview with a healthcare software company this week and apparently that went well enough so that I’m at the next stage of their hiring process: a skills assessment. It’s essentially an online logic test from what I gather. There will be a proctor just sort of watching me as I take this 2 hour test, but I won’t be able to see the proctor! I’ve never done anything like this and I’m nervous – probably more nervous than what’s good for me. I’m taking this logic test this week and just don’t know what to do with myself since I feel like I can’t prepare for it…

So I’ve been trying to relax. I’m a senior and I’m not currently active in the medical school application cycle. There are endless reasons why I should be having a great time…and I may or may not be exploiting them. However, the ticking clock ticks louder senior year because time is definitely running out to do everything I want to do! But one step at a time right?

One thing I’ve always wanted to do was to get money to throw a party. Thanks, Harvard! There’s a student run group on campus called Drug & Alcohol Peer Advisors (DAPA) and they give out grants every week to students who apply for funding. I decided I wanted to host a party revolving around guacamole and although I requested $40, I received a good $20 for guacamole and everyone was so impressed. It was the best. I definitely want to continue taking advantage of this resource to feed all my small cravings :)

I sort of have this problem where even when I’m full, I won’t stop eating. It’s the worst. I’m just glad I have an affinity for exercising to counter my bad habits. I have my third Boston Half Marathon coming up in three weeks and have been experiencing anxiety about it for the past three months. I don’t ever feel ready for long races! But around the end of every September, there’s a community 5k event called the Brian Honan. It’s an amazing event, full of community and spirit! Harvard also sponsors a huge group of runners at the event so registration is free for us! Today was my third Brian Honan as well as my best 5k time! A huge group got together for the event and some of us even jogged back together with a stop at the football stadiums to run up a few stairs before heading over to brunch. Today was just overall an amazing day! It was downpouring at 6am in the morning but the sun was out and the day was beautiful by noon when the race started!

In the summer of 2012, we were all in Barcelona together. In the fall of 2013, we’re still running happy at the Brian Honan :)

It’s been a great week, but I need to stop ignoring my classes. Midterms are coming up…what?! Midterms are definitely the sneakiest thing in college.

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6 comments

  1. Rob Dunning’s avatar

    I’ve looking for posts to gain an insight what student life is like at Harvard College. Reading through your blog post and all the projects you’ve been working on was really helpful.

    The guacamole party sounds bizarre … I think I’m going to have to try one!

    All the best for the future :)

    1. Jeanie Nguyen’s avatar

      Glad to hear you found it helpful! If there’s anything particular you want me or the other bloggers to write about, please feel free to let us know! We take requests :)

      –Jeanie Nguyen

    2. my accounting course’s avatar

      I can remember when I was back in college. FOMO was a HUGE part of my life. I always wanted to be involved, but had to make sure I had enough time to finish my work.

      Congrats on your 3rd half marathon! How long have you been training? I have been trying to work up the courage to attempt a half marathon. Right now I have only run 5ks. Good luck! Can’t wait to see an update how you did!

      1. Jeanie Nguyen’s avatar

        You’re right! Time is the real enemy here!

        Thank you! I’m a semi-avid runner, but I never really consider myself training…It helps that the Cambridge/Boston environment is super conducive to running – especially with the beautiful Charles River as a backdrop!

        Thanks for reading!!

        –Jeanie Nguyen

      2. English Grammar 101’s avatar

        Just be sure not to spread yourself too thin during your senior year. Your senior thesis is extremely important for your future success, so make it as good as you can!

        Aside from that, it sounds like you have a pretty event-filled year! Wish you the best.

        1. Jeanie Nguyen’s avatar

          Spreading ourselves out too thin might be every college student’s problems – definitely along the lines of FOMO (fear of missing out)! For whatever reason in college, you start feeling like you’re getting old and running out of time so you want to do everything!

          Thanks for the warm words; I’ll be sure to keep having fun :)

          –Jeanie Nguyen

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