(Public Health Pre Grad Intern)
The IE pre-graduate internship has truly been an eye opening experience and I have already started recommending it to my friends. I am a Human Biology student graduating this May and I am interested in pursing a graduate degree in Public Health. The university only offers this degree at the Houston location. As a result I sought a mentor in the Women's and Gender Studies program because I am also interested in that area. The first day I met with my mentor I was nervous and not really sure what to expect. She was a pleasant young lady and we were both international students which meant we could relate on a number of issues unique to international students.
The first half of the semester we discussed my interests and the type of degree I was interested in pursuing. She invited some of her colleagues to our meetings who shared similar interests such as women's health and African feminism. The first colleague who came was doing research on how overweight women were treated in the hospitals. She described the procedure and her ultimate goal after the research was done. I found it fascinating especially as I had always thought I would never do research because it was boring. Having a biology background, I always envisioned research as someone being stuck in a laboratory and that didn't appeal to me. Now, I have a different view about research and this internship allowed me to see that.
The second colleague of my mentor came and talked about her research which was focused on African feminism. She talked about her obstacles such as the difficulty in finding documents on her chosen topic. She mentioned about how she has to do a lot of reading and writing. This was very useful because I was divided on whether to pursue a liberal arts degree like women and gender's study or public health which has some science in it. I decided that I would go for public health because I cannot imagine just doing a lot of reading and writing without some mathematics or science. As a result I feel more confident about pursuing Public health instead of women and genders' study.
We also attended some conferences on campus that had to do with gender and health particularly women. I got to see health being tackled from a sociological stand point as opposed to biology or science stand point. It was interesting to hear the different research areas professors were engaging in such as health of Hispanic migrant workers. I also got to meet some other students with such interests and learn from them.
During the second half of the semester we focused more on the application process for graduate school. This really forced me to think about it because I had been putting it off. I learnt about how to select schools. My mentor told me to look at the professors at the schools and their research. There's no point applying to schools were there is no professor doing research of similar interest to mine. Another tip was not to apply to only top ranked schools but also have at least a back up school. We also discussed PHD versus a master's degree as I wasn't sure which one to apply for. I found out that PHD students get more funding and that one can actually start off as a PHD student but decide to only pursue a master's degree. I learnt that one really has to love their research topic as it is that drive you will need to succeed during stressful moments.
The next aspect of application process we discussed was the GRE exams. We talked about planning so that if need be I would have time to take the exam twice before application deadlines. However, it doesn't mean I shouldn't study very hard before I take it because I can take it multiple times. I have decided to take it in September as I would have time over the summer to really study for it and get good scores. High GRE scores are very important for me because I don't have a great GPA and so I need to be outstanding in the other areas of the application packet. The other part of application is getting recommendation letters from professors. One of the assignments for the internships was to go and talk to a professor in our chosen field of interest. This was truly very helpful because I got to ask questions and learn more about various options in the field. Before, I was thinking solely of pursuing a PHD and becoming a professor as that was the only concrete career in my chosen field that I thought I would like. Now, I learnt I could just get a master's degree and work in places like the Center of Disease and Control, World Health Organization or other private sectors.
The last aspect of the application package that we tackled was the statement of purpose. This really got me to think about why exactly I want to pursue a Public Health degree. It forced me to look at different universities that offered the program and their various degrees. I had so many diverse interests in public health making it hard for me to really pinpoint my reasons for the interest. After looking at several public health degree options and also through discussions with my mentor I was able to narrow it to one program. I narrowed it down to Health policy and management. This was really a landmark moment because prior to this internship I couldn't narrow it down. I found that this was a match for me because through the internship I learnt I was a practical person always thinking how I could translate theories learnt in class to real life situations. My mentor pointed that out to me. Probably because of the questions I asked her and her colleagues during our meetings. Also writing the statement of purpose allowed me to think about my long term goals and what exactly I hope to achieve after receiving a master's. It really helped me to put things in perspective. It was a very rewarding experience.
I really enjoyed and I am happy that I took this opportunity to be a part of this internship. I learned so much about graduate school application process and graduate school in general that I didn't know about. Also it has allowed me to prepare the documents needed for application way ahead of time. Without this opportunity I would have probably been rushing my application and could have quite possibly missed out of getting into good schools. In the end, I really appreciate the time my mentor put into meeting up with me and helping me through this discovery process. I feel more focused about what I want to do and cannot wait to actually realize my dream of reducing the health disparity between privileged and underprivileged populations.