The Road to Professional School

By Tafadzwa Muguwe, Medical Student, Harvard University & MIT 11'

"For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to become a physician."

A lot of international students at US colleges aspire to obtain a professional qualification beyond their college careers. Although I have not done a survey on the subject, I would not be surprised if many international students reported that their college lives were at least partly consumed with the uncertainty of whether or not they would be able to achieve their professional goals in America . I certainly experienced a lot of anxiety during college whenever I thought about the future. What if I do not get accepted into graduate school? What if I do not get sufficient funding to advance my studies? These are legitimate questions which I had to deal with but I would like to use my privilege of hindsight to suggest that the future need not cloud one's college experience. In essence, the journey through college is no less important than the future.

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to become a physician. Upon completing my Advanced Levels in Zimbabwe , I had the option to either study medicine at the University of Zimbabwe or study abroad on a full scholarship at Swarthmore College in the US . This was the biggest decision of my entire life up to that point. My dilemma, as I framed it, was whether to take up assured seven year medical training at home or take the longer US route which would require four years of undergraduate study before I could enter a four year graduate medical program. Decision making was rendered more complex by the fact that entry into a US medical school was not guaranteed and would only be determined at the end of my undergraduate studies. In the end I decided to take up Swarthmore's offer. As a college student I constantly wondered whether I had made the right decision. What if I do not get accepted to medical school?

In hindsight I think my decision to study in the US should not have been so difficult. I don't think I could have made a ‘wrong' decision but at the same time my considerations at the time overlooked the intrinsic value of an undergraduate education in America. I conflated the worth of my college experience with my fortunes at the end of college i.e. whether or not I progressed to medical school. Instead my college experience was worthwhile on its own. College was a great opportunity to study in a different culture and experience diversity on a level that was not possible at home. I grew a lot and I learned a lot.

To those of you in college, I encourage you to enjoy the ride and not to worry so much about whether you will get that perfect job in the end. Don't miss out on the abundant riches of college life for it will come to pass.

I wish you success in your endeavors.

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