Picture of Adeeba Jafri

Adeeba Jafri

Adeeba is the author of several books including The Baby Garden, A Zoom with a View and Show Yourself.

In the past three years, I have seen two of my children graduate from high school. I have scoured the web for reviews on the right program, the right city and the right environment for where my kids could complete their undergraduate studies. Suffice it to say, I still know very little! Throughout our college search, I was astounded by the different types of majors and programs that are available to students today.

Having lived overseas for over a decade, I can say that parents of international high school students find themselves stuck in a unique situation; Our children’s college choices are not limited by country or continent. We have seen everything from American students traveling to the Netherlands for studies in International Law to European students study medicine in Far East Asia. Once those students leave, however, there is little to no visibility on how those students fared in those programs. As a result, it is difficult to know whether or not a certain school, program or country would be a good fit for your own child because those graduating students have left for good.

I had the opportunity to interview college students and graduates that have all pursued studies in health science. Reading about their experiences has given me a good understanding of what students are studying these days and how college students today are taking the field of science in new directions.

Name: Maryam Aslam

School: 3rd yr at Carnegie Mellon Qatar

Program: Biological Sciences

Focus: Cancer cell biology.

What is your field about?

Biological Sciences is different from a regular major in Biology. As a biological sciences major, I have the opportunity to not just study biology as a subject, but also how biology intersects with other fields, from computational biology to computer science. In my major, we learn about the global impact of science, including emerging infections, how drugs work, the role of our genome in determining our health, and use of genetic engineering techniques to maintain food production in response to climate change.

How did you decide this field was right for you?

My interest was piqued after taking Molecular and AP Biology at my high school, the American School of Doha. I also completed a research internship in the Biomedical Engineering division of Aspetar Hospital. After doing two Biotechnology Explorer workshops through the outreach program at CMU-Q, I knew this was the right place and the right field for me.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

Working in a lab, making new discoveries in cancer cell biology and completing a PhD / Doctorate in Genetic Research.

What advice would you give to high school students?

Take notes on everything. Find a study method that works for you and makes the most of your time. Always ask questions about everything you’re not sure about.

Name: Syed Taha Ali

School: 2nd yr at Newcastle University, UK

Program: MBBS (Medical Program)

What is your program about?

I am enrolled in a 5 Year undergraduate entry medical program. Years 1-2 are Clinical Sciences and years 3-5 are Clinical Experience.

How did you decide it was right for you?

In 2015, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer-metastatic adenocarcinoma of the lungs-a tumour that spread from the epithelium cell lining in his respiratory system to other organs via the blood and lymphatic systems. I tried to understand the ailment, and potential treatments. He underwent multiple procedures, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Witnessing this intricate medical battle and the doctors’ care for my grandfather was transformative and thus I became hooked on medicine.

To continue to learn more, I did several work experiences, internships and shadowships in multiple countries: Qatar, UK, Pakistan. After I gained all these medical experiences, I decided to lead a cross-sectional study in Karachi, Pakistan which evaluated the Risk factors between hypertensive patients and their compliance. The study resulted in a paper entitled ‘Perceptions and Practices towards Medication Non-Adherence among Hypertensive Patients: An Observational Study’, and consequently led to in conference presentations and awards. All these experiences not only cemented my interest in medicine, but further motivated me to pursue this amazing career.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years?

In 5 years, I will have completed my MBBS degree and completed the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge exams. Additionally, I will be doing interviews for residency programs in the US. In 10 years, I hope to be in the final years of a fellowship, having completed my residency.

What advice would you give to high school students?

Take advantage of any and every opportunity you get. I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not had the vital experiences I had. If you want to study medicine, I would recommend studying in the UK. The UK has world renowned medical schools and a direct, undergraduate entry, 5-6-year MBBS degree. Medicine in the UK provides a quality medical degree in a shorter time without the risk of not getting into medical school after 4 years, plus at a significantly lower cost.

Name: Sauleha Husain, B.S, CPhT, CCRC

(Certified Pharmacy Technician and Certified Clinical Research Coordinator)

Graduate School: Baylor University

Program: Senior Masters of Public Health

Undergraduate School: University of Texas – Dallas

Major: Neuroscience Minor: Literature

What is your program about?

I currently work as an epidemiologist, doing contact tracing for COVID-19. My graduate research is in infection prevention in hospital settings of healthcare-associated infections, such as C. Diff or MRSA. I had worked on clinical trials for new and unapproved drugs for about three years before moving into more of an infectious disease standpoint. I was pre-med / pre-PA in college but I realized that I didn’t want to stay in school for a really long time to become a PA. With an MPh and a diverse job background, I can change fields every few years using difference experiences.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years?

In five or ten years, I could be doing anything, and that is what I love about my field. COVID-19 is an infectious virus that I have been working on for a while, and will most likely not go away for a long time. In 5 years, I will probably still be doing COVID-related research, or some other type of infection for a state or federal government program.

What advice would you give to high school students?

I advise high school students not to jump into clinical degrees such as MD, DO or PA programs if you are unsure. If you really want to work in health sciences, do a Bachelors in Nursing first. It will give a lot more versatility in your graduate school options. I also want to emphasize that research is a massive field. I had always imagined research would be boring, unpaid lab work but I have done so many types of research and all of them were fun and exciting, and often well-paid.

Name: Megan Genetti

School: 1st year at University of Utah

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Focus: Biomechanical engineering/ neural engineering

What is your major about?

Biomedical engineering is a broad field of study. The best way to explain it is to think of any kind of tool, instrument, or machinery that exists in any medical field. That is what biomedical engineering is about: developing the tools for the medical field. There are so many different specialties you can have within the BME major such as bioinstrumentation, bio-electrical engineering, neural-electrical engineering, bio-mechanical engineering, and more. Some students will also use it as a route for pre-med, pre-dental, and pre-law. The basic idea for all BME specialities is applying the principals of math, science, and engineering to the human body to develop improvements for the medical field.

How did you decide it was right for you?

I really loved all the AP sciences as well as AP calculus. I wanted to be a pediatric surgeon for a while but I decided I didn’t want to go to school for that long. I still wanted to do something within the medical field and with biology. While doing some research, I stumbled on BME. It met every aspect of what I wanted in my education. I knew it was right for me because I felt so passionate about it. It made me excited to look at my schedule for the next four years and the prospect of developing revolutionary technology is so exciting. You know something is right for you when it makes you excited to go to school and learn about it for the next 4+ years.

Where do you see yourself in 5 yrs? 10 yrs?

In the next 5 years I hope to have my bachelors degree and a lot of experience within my field. I want to have internship experience and research experience. I see myself working towards my masters degree and specializing in either neural engineering or bio-mechanical engineering. In the next 10 years I see myself having a masters degree and working within my field. I want to be in a big city, hopefully Seattle or New York. And if my dreams come true I’ll have a mini golden doodle with me too.

What advice would you give to high school students?

The best advice I can give is to understand that you’re not going to be great at everything. People who seem to be are just better at hiding it. Don’t stress over the little stuff. Do your best and if that’s not good enough to get an A, then move on. The bad grades you got in high school are a distant memory when you’re taking classes you actually like. The other piece of advice I have is to develop a work ethic. If you’re the type of person who can get good grades without having to put much effort in, put effort in anyways. It’s really hard to force yourself to study when you can do fairly well without it, but it is important to develop an ability to study. Eventually, there will be classes that you have to study for, and you’ll want to be able to have that skill.

Name: Iman Khwaja

School: Graduate of St Mary’s University Twickenham, London. (2019)

Major: Nutrition

What was your major about?

My major in Nutrition was about the role of foods and their compounds in health and disease. It is an emerging and essential science considering the current rise in prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, addressing both their treatment and prevention. We looked at nutrition from different perspectives including public health and clinical nutrition, the former of which studies nutritional guidance and interventions for whole populations, and the latter of which aims to fulfill or repair the nutritional needs of an individual.

How did you decide it was right for you?

I first remember taking interest in Nutrition when some family friends of ours used diet to heal “leaky gut” which markedly improved their food allergies. I always loved biology and was interested in disease prevention, so these factors combined compelled me to study Nutrition.

Where do you see yourself in 5 yrs? 10 yrs?

I would love to be working in clinical trials for nutritional interventions which would prevent and treat diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

What advice would you give to high school students?

Take the time to know yourself – your strengths, passions, and goals – and commit yourself to your desired major/career path accordingly. The best and most rewarding path would be one that takes all of these elements into consideration. Everyone should feel passionate and inspired by what they do.

Name: Enaya Syed

School: 2nd yr at City, University of London

Major: BSc Psychology Honors

What is your major about?

Psychology, in the most broad terms, is all about the brain. Essentially everything we learn about connects back to the brain, from mental health, to diseases, to primary bodily functions such as our five senses. While the subject is heavily biology-based, there are many other aspects like learning the inner workings of societies, human relationships, and how we predict certain behaviors of ourselves and others. Psychology is a very general degree, thus giving anyone pursuing it a broad range of employment opportunities in the future.

How did you decide it was right for you?

Psychology has always been my favorite subject. Although IB psychology was a frustrating subject most of the time due to the exam layout, the actual content was always of interest to me. While I’ve chosen to do a psych degree with the intent of going into clinical psych, I also know my degree opens up many opportunities if I change my mind. In our current world, we could always use more psychologists, which is promising to know as I will likely never struggle with finding a career in mental health.

Where do you see yourself in 5 yrs? 10 yrs?

In 5 years I see myself working towards a PhD/Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology. In 10 years if I’ve gotten my doctorate degree, I see myself either be working in a clinical institution specializing in children’s psychology, or working in the NHS (UK National Health Service) as a general therapist.

What advice would you give to high school students?

Do not put too much pressure on choosing the ‘right’ degree at first. For most US university students, you will likely have the option within your first and second year to change your major, so its ok to be undecided. Even for those who might be doing a degree in UK/Europe, I would suggest to focus more on what piques your interest, as European degrees are a bit more difficult to change your major in (usually have to start university again from year 1). Regardless of whether you end up liking your degree or not, you will still be very young when you graduate so you can always go on to study something else you might enjoy after you get your degree.

Name: Emmad Athar Masood

School: 3rd year at University of Houston, C.T. Bauer College of Business

Major: Supply Chain Management

Minor: Kinesiology – Exercise Science

What is your major / minor about?

Supply Chain Management is about the procurement and buy, plan, make, sell function of any company. Several people consider it the backbone of the company. The supply chain helps reduce costs and helps generate profit for the company. It is the flow of goods and services as it controls all the inventory as well as gives the company a competitive advantage.

Kinesiology Exercise Science is the study of the biomechanics of the body movements. It involves the movement of the body, the study of all exercises for people, as well as gives a broad understanding of health and human performance. People in this major have a good understanding in rehabilitation, human performance, and nutrition. In this major, you learn about physiology, diet plans, biomecanics, effects of obesity, sports training, and more.

How did you decided it was right for you?

I first started college majoring in Kinesiology before I decided to make it my minor in my sophomore year. After working in an LLC company, getting experience in marketing, entrepreneurship, and sales, I decided that business is what I desire. I realized that I didn’t necessarily want to be involved in the health portion of a hospital but be involved in the business portion of a hospital which is why I decided to make kinesiology my minor so that I have knowledge in both business and health and human performance. I knew that Texas Medical Center was one of the best medical centers in the United States and that the opportunity for business in hospitals in Houston would be high. All of this together confirmed my decision to major in Supply Chain and minor in Kinesiology.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

In five years, I see myself working in the procurement portion of a hospital in Texas Medical Center gaining experience in the logistics management of the company. In ten years, I see myself getting close to a management or team-leading role also in procurement.

What advice what you give to high school students?

By the time you’re a junior or a senior, do all the research you possibly can for several different careers. Match your strengths and weaknesses with different careers. Apply your knowledge in which subjects you are good at and see which careers use those subjects the most. If you can, try to speak to career counselors at different colleges, if they allow you to do so. Make sure you set your degree plan before you start college so you are well prepared.

Name: Narmeen Umer School: 2nd year at University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) Major: Honours Biochemistry and Forensic Science

What is your major about? My major is based on biochemistry, chemistry and molecular biology, with applications to criminal and civil laws through exposure to forensics. How did you decide it was right for you? Going into university, I had a completely different mindset of what major I wanted to pursue but being exposed to university and all its opportunities, I developed new interests. I knew it was right for me when I enjoyed the classes I was taking in first year! 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself working as either a pharmacist or dentist.

What advice would you give to high school students?

One aspect of high school that really helped me in university was having credits for some of my courses. I completed the IB diploma program and had credits for my HL courses. I advise that you get your credits through either AP or IB in high school and that way, you can focus on specific courses and adjusting to university life and rather than being overwhelmed with coursework.