Figuring It Out As We Go

Hey guys! My name is Alison Chilcott and I am a rising senior Honors College Ambassador! I am from Cleveland, Ohio, and I have loved every second of the last 3 years—and looking forward to my final year (ah! scary!).

I am majoring in Biology and French with minors in Chemistry and Sociology, and a certificate in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine, currently on the pre-health track. Going into school, I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. I decided on Pitt after visiting the campus and listening to my moms “recommended” 3 hour distance limit from home. But every second here has proved that decision right. At first I had no clue what to study; I was interested in languages, science, art, and history. But my first few weeks here, I met with a few advisors and the dean from the UHC who helped me find a sort of track to channel my interests. Through the past few years, I narrowed in on a study path and learned about ways to do what I was interested in outside of the classroom as well! I am now the president of Global Medical Brigades, service chair of the National Honor Fraternity Phi Sigma Pi, and a member of CHAARG, French club, and Days for Girls. I also volunteer at the VA Hospital, play rec volleyball, serve as a TA for a few courses, and tutor at TRIO support services. 

Myself and fellow honors students at Mock Shaadi last spring! Mock Shaadi is put on by the Pakistani Student Association and involves a lot of great food, music, and dancing.

Being a part of the UHC has given me so many opportunities to expand my educational and extracurricular pursuits! I have been involved since day one, living in Surtherland Hall, and have kept involvement with honors classes, using honors advising, fellowships, and serving as an honors mentor. One of the biggest things I have been able to do with the UHC was the THINK Fellowship (now called the UHC Fellowships!) that I received for my research at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences on translating a diagnostic aphasia test into French. I was able to fund and present my research while working with other outstanding creative student researchers in a collaborative setting.

What I love most about the UHC is their emphasis on interdisciplinary work—I have always been interested in a wide range of topics, and the UHC supported my research which combined health and language. Their support helped me especially as I had so many interests and goals for my future; they helped me to see that I could do all that I was interested in, I would just need to be a little creative.

H2P!! This was from the rainy Pitt-Penn State game in 2018!

My most memorable experiences as a Pitt student were definitely my study abroad trips. I studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France during the fall semester of 2019, where I lived in a homestay with a French family and interned and volunteered teaching kids English in addition to taking courses. I was fully immersed in the southern French lifestyle and culture. I also traveled to Honduras for a medical service trip in 2018 and 2019 (and hopefully again in 2021)! In Honduras, we work with and shadow local doctors and medical professionals.

A picture from my time in Honduras last summer! I was able to see how medicine and public health projects become realities in rural communities.

One piece of advice I have for new students at Pitt would be to be okay with taking risks and to seek out any possibilities you find interesting. Four years of college goes by scary fast, so it’s best to try absolutely everything when you can. Plus, you never know what a new club or class could bring you. It might make you question what you always thought you wanted to do, but it may also help you find what you’re meant to be. The UHC is a great resource for students who still have a ways to go in deciding what their future holds: they can help you find your own way to make it all work.

I have had so many incredible experiences in college and have made long lasting friendships across the country and globe all because of Pitt—all because, starting out, I had too many things on my agenda. I still have some things to figure out, but I have been lucky enough to find people that helped me figure it out as we went.

Me kayaking in the “grand canyon” of France! Studying abroad is an amazing experience that I wish I could do all over again!

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