It’s an undeniably incredible feeling to be accepted to medical school at the age of 18 and have a sense of assurance in your future plans. Through college, I felt a sense of security knowing that I could diversify my skills and interests without having to worry about what it would mean for a medical school application. For starters, I chose to pursue a major in Environmental Sciences: Policy along with a certificate in Leadership.
When I came to Northwestern, I knew I liked teaching and mentoring as well as culture. I wanted to be involved in student interest groups that reflect these interests to assess the extent to which I want to incorporate them into my future career. With no obligation to spend a large proportion of my time shadowing and researching (though I did do these), I had the freedom to become part of college organizations as well as work summer jobs and part time jobs as a teacher, tutor, and mentor. Furthermore, I learned invaluable lessons about leadership and teamwork by exploring my cultural interests and taking leadership roles in South Asian interest groups—something for which I wouldn’t have had time without HPME.
My experiences at Northwestern (along with Northwestern’s incredible fellowship office—one of my favorite parts about the school) led me to apply to a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in South Korea for 13 months. Had I not been able to graduate in three years due to HPME, I would not have considered a gap year. My year enabled me to cultivate and develop my communication skills, cultural competency, and mentoring relationships. I could see how my experience in Korea would translate into becoming a more empathetic and communicative doctor. Moreover, having been accepted to medical school opened up several doors for me in Korea. As in college, I was able to immerse myself in my experience without obligations or pressure stemming from medical school applications and flying back to the US for interviews like several of my Fulbright colleagues. Finally, because I could advertise myself as a medical student to Korean Medical Universities, I was able to research Korean medical education—yet another opportunity that was only available to me because of HPME.
Without HPME, I would not have had the opportunity to diversify my experiences (or have 500+ Korean students rooting for me to make it through medical school.) The program gave me the freedom to explore my interests throughout college and during my Fulbright in Korea, helping me develop as a person so that I can ultimately become a better doctor.