Friday, August 20, 2010, at approximately 1:30 p.m., I, strolled down 10th Street with 10 other students towards the Real Crisis Intervention Center. This short walk may not seem significant to an outsider, but for us, it was the beginning of a new part of our lives. We were embarking on a journey that in some sense we had been preparing for over the past 12 years– college. But not only were we college students, we were also EC Scholars. Keep in mind, this was mere hours after our parents had left us in the unfamiliar residence hall and the 11 of us had only met about an hour before this walk took place. Interestingly enough, the activity that was planned for us was service work. Our first real interaction with one another as independent college students was a service project! What an awesome message to instill in students.
East Carolina University encourages students to take part in the Greenville community in many ways. Part of ECU’s mission statement explains that the university’s goal is to positively impact eastern North Carolina by training students and sending them back into the community. The fact that a service project was the first activity that I participated in as an ECU student really put into perspective what would be expected of me as an EC Scholar. It set the standard very high and it showed us the community is as much a part of learning as the classroom.
Stress is something everybody has to deal with, whether young or old, male or female, Type A or Type B. But stress can especially be hard on a college student. To start, students must attend classes. And no matter what major or year you are in, there is always one class that just eats all of your time. No matter how hard you work on it, you always feel like you’re playing catch up.
Then there is another layer to add to our growing stress: friends. You love to hate them and can’t live without them. They are your family away from home, but just like family, they have the ability to crowd your space and annoy you. This can be especially true in the 12-by-12 cube that is your dorm room.
The last major component of our escalating stress levels is perhaps the classic reason we come to college—to discover who we truly are. We do this by joining clubs, rushing fraternities and sororities, joining honor societies, finding jobs, internships and shadowing, changing majors (and changing them again), and trying new experiences. Now I’m not saying that to have a full college experience you must try everything, but you should try everything that interests you. When else in your life will you be able to do this?
During my first semester here at ECU, I had the privilege of living in the Honors dorm. The experience of being part of the Living and Learning Community for Honors College students is beneficial in so many ways. As Honors College students, we meet together for Honors classes, but we also live together in the same building. This community allows us to build relationships within the Honors College that we can maintain throughout our careers at East Carolina University. It is also the perfect environment in which to build study groups and work on projects. Living on campus allows easy access to all of the resources of the library, as well as Mendenhall, and the Student Recreation Center.
I am an undergraduate researcher at the Brody School of Medicine. I first started in the field of research in high school observing my mentors. One mentor I observed in high school focused on the mitochondrial physiology of cardiomyocytes, while the other mentor focused on the therapeutic effects of human mesenchymal stem cells in hearts. When I first started, I knew almost nothing about any of these subjects. What little information I did know was from the biology classes I took in high school. I did not know any of the techniques used to do research, but I learned.
I formed great relationships with my two mentors and the people in their labs over time. I literally began to absorb knowledge from my mentors like a sponge, learning how to do some of the techniques by observing. My mentors showed me how to apply scientific theory through their research. I learned how important the mitochondria in heart muscle cells were for life and the energy they provided to each individual heart muscle cell for the entire heart to beat. I also learned the potential of stem cells of how they can differentiate into heart cells to replace dead heart cells after a heart attack to restore the heart’s function back to normal.
At ECU, there are tons of professors who come to the university wanting to teach and to find personal protégés. I have observed that few students at ECU take advantage of this. Since I am a student who seeks more knowledge, I advance outside conversation with many of my professors and they make time for me. Even if I’ve never met them, they make time for me. It’s that simple. I will share a few experiences that represent the vast majority.
When I was a prospective student, I made calls to each university that I was considering. At ECU, everyone took the time to answer my questions and share their thoughts.
When I visited the departmental office of the Department of Economics to add my second major, the department head, who is also a professor, called me into his office to discuss the matter. He said that he is always happy to recruit another mathematically strong student to his “BS-Quantitative” program.