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The Bulletin asked two NMSU graduates about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and about their future plans. Here are the responses from Rawan Elaksher (RE) and Maria Valenzuela (MV), thanks to NMSU Media Relations Officer Minerva Baumann.
Where are you from?
RE: I was born in Egypt, but I lived in the U.S. for the majority of my life.
MV: I am originally from El Paso.
How old are you?
What degree are you graduating with?
RE: I will be graduating with a BS in genetics and biotechnology and biology, along with a minor in biochemistry.
MV: I am graduating with a bachelor's degree in biology and two minors: biochemistry and chemistry.
What are your plans after graduation?
RE: I will be going to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, to conduct research, while working on my graduate school applications.
MV: After graduation, I will be applying for a job either to substitute teach or to become a scribe at a doctor’s office. During this process, though, I will be applying to medical school.
Will you miss having a graduation ceremony?
MV: I will miss not having a ceremony due to COVID because we all worked so hard to reach this goal in our lives. We had countless all-nighters and we were all just so excited for that moment where we could celebrate with all our family and finally say “We did it!” Celebrating with my family over Zoom isn’t really what I had pictured when I graduated college.
How has learning been for you since NMSU closed down due to COVID?
RE: My learning at NMSU since COVID has been a challenge. It has been difficult to focus on my studying while being at home all the time.
MV: Learning for me was somewhat challenging. I like in-person classes, because I can interact with people. With online learning, everyone has their videos off and their microphones on mute. The only one talking is the professor and when they ask questions, no one really talks, they just typed something in the group chat, so this made learning boring at times. Also being at home with two younger siblings, I would need to help them with their own schoolwork during the day, while also trying to complete mine. I also felt that I had even less time to do work than I did before. The professors did great, though, in trying to make the best out of this situation.
How has COVID impacted your post-graduation plans?
RE: COVID has not yet impacted my post-graduation plans; however, it may alter the day I start working at NIH.
MV: This summer, my family had planned on going to Disneyland to celebrate my sister’s 15th birthday and my graduation, but unfortunately that will not happen due to COVID.
What is your ultimate career goal?
RE: My ultimate career goal is to become a physician-scientist, focusing on research while also working in a clinical setting as a doctor.
MV: My ultimate career goal is to become a pediatrician and get my own clinic.
What are your other interests, i.e., hobbies?
RE: In my free time, I enjoy exercising, especially going on walks near the mountains, and I try to go on a walk at least once a day. I also enjoy reading, and I have a couple of books on my shelf that I am planning on reading once the semester ends, including ‘The Chemist’ by Stephenie Meyer. One thing that I really enjoy is doing arts and crafts with my friends. Whenever my friends and I are free, we usually get together and paint.
MV: Some hobbies are running, watching movies, writing, going dancing and spending time with my friends and family. This coming year I am hoping to run my second half marathon.
What’s the most important thing you learned at NMSU? What will you remember the most?
RE: One of the most important things that I learned at NMSU is to always put myself out there and make connections. I am an introvert, and I am usually too shy to reach out to people, however, I learned that to get experience, whether it’s in a job or a leadership position, I had to reach out to people first and put myself out there. One thing that I will remember the most is my research experience in Dr. Paola Mera’s lab and the friends I made during that time. It was an amazing experience. I always looked forward to going to lab, because I felt comfortable with those around me, and they made our worktime enjoyable and fun. My research experience has taught me cooperative work and perseverance, and that is something that I will take with me wherever I go in my career.
MV: One of the most important things that I learned at NMSU is that it is important to put yourself out there and try new things. I became a student ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences. I was scared at first because I am a shy person, but I learned a lot from them, and I improved my public-speaking skills quite a bit. The things I will remember the most are the memories I created with my friends, having study sessions in Branson Library, buying a coffee and a bagel from Einstein’s before class, so I could stay awake for those 8:30 a.m. classes, having lunch in Corbett, but mostly being a student at NMSU. I miss going to school, as crazy as it may sound. I would like to thank my coaches at El Paso High School and my cross country/half marathon coaches at El Paso Community College for pushing me to reach this goal and for always believing in me. I would also like to thank my basketball girls’ and boys’ track athletes that I coached at Wiggs Middle School in El Paso for being a motivation to me. Lastly, I would like to thank my family and friends for always being there for me through good and bad times. Thank you, NMSU. You will be missed.