From an early age, we are taught to compartmentalize our various “selves”—a work self, a home self, a social self. But I think promoting mutual exclusivity for our lives is hurtful because we lose sight of the bigger picture. As a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, my biggest take-away from the past four years has been finding transcendent ways to connect and thread together each autonomous “life” that I have tried on over the past two decades.
I was one of those kids who loved absolutely everything. One day, I would be blowing up science experiments in the garage and the next, voraciously eating up the words in the Victorian novels tucked away in the ruelle of my bedroom. Entering the university with the intention of double majoring in neuroscience and English—without any idea of how these selves would co-exist—I involved myself with other passionate students in the honors college community. My interdisciplinary spirit began to form. Through an internship with Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, a national non-profit organization that aims to extend freedom of speech to refugee artists and writers, and research fellowships, including the Brackenridge and Community-Based Research Fellowships provided by the UHC, I constructed my multi-dimensional identity. Along the way, my confidence grew as I pushed myself to pursue leadership as a first-year honors housing resident assistant and program coordinator, UHC ambassador and peer mentor, and Phi Beta Kappa junior member and president. I graduated with majors in psychology and French with a minor in neuroscience and a very clear vision of what the future will hold.
By stepping into these roles, I began finding connections among my many selves and simultaneously realizing the bigger questions and goals that backed them. I realized that it was language that strung together each piece of me. From a scientific perspective, I strive to understand the mental processes that are involved in language learning and how language plays a role in the broader educational system. This passion has guided me in successfully writing and defending a Bachelor of Philosophy thesis on factors that influence learning of idioms. I will happily continue this line of research at McGill University next year in an experimental psychology and language acquisition PhD program. From a humanitarian perspective, I see the dynamic relationship between language and the distribution of power and social hierarchy. This unbalance, specifically in education, has made me a fighter for women’s and human rights. My ardent desire for civil engagement inspired me to apply for and receive the prestigious 2016 Humanity in Action Fellowship in Amsterdam. Alongside 48 international fellows, I will participate in workshops and leadership sessions to gain a deeper awareness of social injustice issues around the globe and learn how to implement alleviating strategies in my own community. I don’t think we ever truly lose touch with the people we used to be, thus I am grateful for the opportunities granted to me by the honors college, the university, and the greater Pittsburgh community in piecing together my mosaic and telling my story.