Life Outside the Classroom
Author: Nicole Derei
About the Author: Nikki is an undergraduate student at Lehigh University studying with an intended Bachelor of Science in Biology. Her primary goal within the medical field is to become a Physician’s Assistant and aid those around her in any capacity. She enjoys the simple parts of life such as taking in her surrounding environment by walking, hiking, and exploring. She also enjoys listening to music, making video edits, and photography.
One of the most crucial aspects when applying to any medical program is the extracurricular activities. Although academic progress and level of class difficulty tend to matter, those reviewing a student’s application will largely emphasize the importance of extracurriculars. Thus, deciding which extracurricular is deemed noteworthy for a spot on one’s application or resume can become the most difficult step. In this blog, I’ll give an overview on how I managed to find a career path and extracurricular activities that suited my values, interests, and skills.
Within my first year of undergrad, I made it my primary mission to further dive into my desires and interests. Deciding on a career path is not always easy as it can require many trials and errors before it is determined. I came into college with the intent of strictly following a pre-med track in pursuit of becoming a Dermatologist but realized I wanted to have the ability to maneuver and work in varying specialties. Upon research, I decided that becoming a Physician’s Assistant would be less restrictive. I think that this role within the medical field would help me become familiar with a lot of new terminologies, techniques, and responsibilities that I would not be able to attain with other professions. With this in mind, I then focused on gradually growing my experience by seeking out an assortment of extracurriculars that would enhance my future career path. How does one know whether something is valuable to mention to further their career goals? I honed my focus on the extracurriculars that showcase my varying strengths, ranging from leadership, research, patient exposure, shadowing, internships, employment, and volunteering. I try to showcase my level of experience, expertise, and versatility in many aspects during my undergraduate years to become a competitive applicant and gain endless knowledge.
As a first-year student, I decided to take on a role that would require a lot of responsibility which led to my part-time job at my campus’s art gallery. Similar to healthcare workers, art galleries help people in many ways, especially with the mind and soul. I always found it admirable how beauty can stem from nothing and is all up to the individual’s interpretation, which is why I gravitated towards this position. This job has helped me gain a sense of responsibility which I believe can be further utilized within my future endeavors as a Physician’s Assistant. During the first semester of my sophomore year, I was distraught as many opportunities were unavailable due to the ongoing pandemic. In pursuit of finding a solution to those in a similar situation as mine, I decided to initiate a Community Based Participatory Research Project (CBPR) that focused on the mental health of students during the pandemic at Lehigh University. My primary focus was on students who were located further from their college campus thus having even more limited resources, causing more of an academic disconnect than others. In pursuit of examining and reducing the worsened outcomes of the mental health of these students, I implemented several preventions which included the use of surveys, interactive/info Zoom sessions, and a motivational Instagram account. I believe that taking on a similar role within one’s community is beneficial in learning how to interact with individuals. Additionally, I sought out volunteer opportunities that would help me gain a better understanding of the varying professions that I could possibly head into. I am the Volunteer Head Department at Pre-Health Shadowing and I believe this is the most rewarding opportunity. Having the ability to attend info sessions and learn about the journeys, daily tasks, hardships, and ambitions of several guest speakers has strengthened my passion for medicine. My goal in life is to help make a difference in the lives of anyone that I come in contact with because this world could always be improved.
This leadership position has allowed me to strengthen my communication skills and grow as a responsible leader. I think that leadership positions are very important because it shows that you are willing to take on the initiative of the task at hand. Within my next two years, I plan on strengthening my experience by gaining exposure to summer internships and direct patient care. I am most excited to start working directly with patients as I believe that will not only enhance my applications but help me feel comfortable in a setting that I am still unfamiliar with. Although I have come in contact with several Physician Associates during my hospital, dentist, or clinical visits, I have never been one to lead initiatives. Being given the opportunity as a Direct Patient Care Assistant will allow me to gain the required hours but also learn how to navigate my surrounding environment alongside a variety of people. In my opinion, the most eye-provoking extracurriculars are the ones that show an individual’s well-roundedness and eagerness to learn. I believe that all these extracurriculars that I am partaking in will aid me in the future. When it comes to careers and extracurriculars, it is best to explore and remain open-minded to opportunities that come your way!