While academics are incredibly important to me, I have found that my favorite experiences at Pitt come from co and extra-curricular experiences. I like to sort these activities into two categories: academically beneficial and for social benefit. These two distinct categories of curricular activities connect me to the Pitt community in a way entirely separate from the academic community, which contributes to my holistic appreciation for being a student at Pitt. It offers me an opportunity to balance school, socialization, and additional interests.
Without a doubt, my favorite co-curricular experience is my research lab. I have been an undergraduate assistant in my lab since my sophomore year of school and it has been monumental in shaping my scientific interests and potential career paths. In the lab, we perform neuropsychiatric research on neural pathways implicated in cognitive flexibility. I work directly under the guidance of a postdoctoral member of the lab who serves as my mentor, and I assist with behavioral training, data collection, and analysis. My advice is if you think you might be interested in research, pursue it! There is an abundance of labs that mentor undergraduate students in all areas of study.
Another co-curricular experience I regard highly is volunteering at UPMC Presbyterian. Before Covid-19, I volunteered for a year with geriatric patients and for another year in the Emergency Department. Both environments exposed me to clinical settings that confirmed my strong interest in pursuing a medical career, and I was even able to form professional connections with doctors I met while volunteering, which led to high-quality shadowing opportunities. However, volunteering doesn’t have to be for just pre-health students! There are enriching opportunities all over Pittsburgh for ESL programs, food pantries, animal clinics, refugee assistance, housing assistance, and more. Volunteering is a rewarding way to connect with the Pittsburgh community, and I highly encourage becoming involved with volunteering in your time here.
Aside from research and volunteering, I love to play sports. I joined intramural soccer and volleyball teams my freshmen year—my volleyball team was actually formed by a group of my friends who all had met in Sutherland Hall as part of the Honors LLC! That volleyball team is still together to this day, and we really enjoy playing weekly and seeing how far into the playoffs we can make it. I also am writing an article for the Pitt Pulse, a Pitt-affiliated writing club that focuses on integrating STEM and ongoing sociopolitical conditions. Writing these types of articles helps me in finding ways to connect my neuroscience and literature majors, which often feel disconnected from one another.
The benefits of being engaged with the Pitt community outside of the classroom are abundant. These activities introduce you to like-minded people with similar priorities and interests to you, allowing you to expand your circle of supportive friends. Some of my closest friends come from these extracurricular activities, and of course, being a Pitt Honors Ambassador has introduced me to some of the best and brightest people in Pittsburgh. My experiences, both academic and extracurricular, continue to shape my career path, interests, and community engagement; they assist in my effort to connect my academic pursuits with the world around me. Getting involved in the world around you is a wonderful way of connecting what you learn in the classroom to the rest of the world, making you a bridge between communities you’re passionate about. I am very interested in making science and medicine accessible to people in my community, and my extracurricular activities at Pitt have certainly given me methods to achieve this goal.