Raaka Kumbhakar

Unlike many of the students before me who have made well-researched decisions to attend the University of Pittsburgh, I arrived here by fortunate accident, without a real idea of what I wanted in a college experience, much less what I wanted to study. I had only ever really heard of Pitt because a good friend of mine from my high school in Vestal, NY had chosen to attend Pitt, and encouraged me to apply based on her positive experiences with the UHC. Even after acceptance, I initially wrote the school off and assumed I would attend another. However, when I decided to visit during Honors Day in April, I was floored by how fast I fell in love with the school- the city, the general demeanor around campus, and most of all, the Honors College community, which, because it is genuinely non exclusive, truly provides a nurturing academic and social environment for any student willing to take any sort of initiative.  That community, led by Dean Stewart, adapted for me a comfortingly progressive attitude, promoting interdisciplinary study for the sake of obtaining knowledge rather than being as competitive as possible.

During my freshman year, I lived in Forbes Hall, the freshman honors housing at the time. This was the most formative experience I had by far. I am sure that some of the friendships with the people I met there will continue years into the future. Furthermore, through that community and my participation in UHC organizations, I’ve been exposed to some of the brightest minds I expect to ever come across. They have challenged me, expanded my mind, and developed my thought process. These experiences in the Honors College with both students and staff, even as they tore down my initial perceptions, have helped me build the confidence in myself to pursue my goals, and indeed define what those goals are. Even after ultimately deciding to follow the pre medical curriculum, I’ve been able to immerse myself in courses of study in philosophy, economics, French and global studies. Rather than being distractions or side pursuits, they’ve allowed me better understand medicine through the scope of public health and in social terms.
The great thing about the UHC is that even while it encourages a community atmosphere, it does not limit students to a self-contained sphere. I’m involved in the Student Honors Activity Council (SHAC), planning events for the Honors College community, and am on the senior staff of the Pitt Political Review (PPR), an Honors College publication. However, with the help of Mike Giazzoni, I’ve also used a UHC teaching fellowship to pursue work as an undergraduate TA in multiple classes, and research fellowships to fund my work in the Graduate School of Public Health, both outside of the “scope” of UHC community. And when I made an off the cuff decision to apply to national scholarships, Judy Zang made sure that this idea could progress from a whim into a reality. It’s rare that an organization can be so closely knit and supportive without being insular, and I’ve been able to take advantage of that to the fullest extent. I fully believe that the tools that this strong community and advising network has given me will help me succeed years down the road.