From Foreign to Foreseeable Landscape

Here we are. It’s been a while since the program ended. The final blog post, the blog post to top it all. What an experience it’s been. From the crazy serotonin highs to sometimes the crippling defeat, it’s been an incredible experience. When I returned, my family and friends asked for stories, and I didn’t know where to start. I had some hilarious stories I shared off the top of my head, but I didn’t know where to start. But I guess we have to start now?

Let’s start with academic/professional development because it’s the most cut and dry. First, I got another research experience, which is excellent enough. When I was in America, I only had the opportunity to participate in biomedical research. That’s the Petri dish, pipetting, Ph.D. research, not the MD research. It’s good to start somewhere, but I’m ecstatic that I had the opportunity to level up my research from biomedical to clinical. It’s a step that most people cannot complete, and I’m proud I was fortunate enough to do that. Next, I’m also pleased to say that my abstract submission will be published in the American Heart Association.

In November, I’m going to travel to Chicago and give a live oral talk about my presentation, which according to my PI, is very special and prestigious, especially at my young age. She explained that she’s never seen someone from my age group have that opportunity. I’m very thankful to my lab mates, Pitt, and God, for being fortunate to have an experience like this, which allowed me to have an opportunity like this. Last, I was offered a position working under my PI. I asked her if she would be interested in letting me come work for her between my two years of college and medical school. She said she’d be interested but would need to secure funding. That’s a little down the line, but I’m excited about the possibilities. Of course, there’s time, and I have many options I could do in my gap years, but we’ll see what God has in store for me. Until then, I’m just going to let it sit and marinate in my brain for now. But if I could accomplish a publication in two weeks, imagine what I could do in two years! It feels like the possibilities are endless.

Next, there is one thing professionally that I wanted to touch on. Ultimately, this program is a business program. A pre-med student wasn’t supposed to be on this trip, let alone land a medical internship. I’m very proud that I believed I could land an opportunity like this when people in the program told me it wouldn’t be possible. It makes me happy to know, in a sense I was a trailblazer. Not only did I do something no one else did, but I succeeded. It makes me happy for the future, and anyone else in stem could follow in my footsteps.

Moving from professional, I want to talk about my personal growth. This will be a thick topic, and I’m just going to lay it all out there. My junior year was absolute hell. I was constantly on the ambulance, studying, or in class for my major. Eight of my eighteen credits were lab/clinical for reference. I barely had enough time in the day to take a shower and wash my clothes. I had to mature fast and early. Seeing people die in front of your eyes makes you wonder what’s out there beyond the world and how a speck like you, in the grand scheme of things, piece into the puzzle. I had to battle mental illness and endless thoughts to make it through. Of course, I chose my major, knowing what to get into. If I had to go back in time, I’d do it all again without question. Having an opportunity like this was unique, especially the internship I got. I’m thankful I had the financial means for this program. This was the perfect cherry on top of the cake for the end of one year. Going through nine months of hell for two months of heaven was priceless. Granted, I submitted this application on the last possible day and hour for this program, and I had to choose between this and the Dublin program. I can confidently say I chose the right program.

Last, I’ve been waiting to complete a full analysis of my spiritual journey through this program. It was interesting. In my first blog post, I wrote, “Throughout my exploration of spirituality, I have come to understand that spirituality is a triangle. Spirituality is a corresponding three-sided object: religion, non-religion, and achievement. Each side cannot stand without the other, yet one can influence the others. A spiritual moment is when the physical body and mind are both 100% focused at the moment, not worrying about anything else.” What I can say for sure is that I still agree with this definition.
Furthermore, I explained more about spiritual moments in my second post, “Just these breathtaking, hair-standing, goosebump-inducing moments with mind and body entirely focused. It’s so unique and never artificially reproducible.” I still agree with all these comments. However, when I returned home, I spent time with my family. We went to NYC to visit my grandparents and my Uncle, Aunt, and cousins from my moms’ side. I realized one thing… No matter how many cities, countries, and towns I visit, I’ll never be as happy as when I am with my family. I can’t explain it. There’s magic in the air. The magic is love. Being with my family, I realized that’s where my heart lies. Berlin was fantastic, unique, and even exquisite, but my heart was never gushing when I was there. It only is when I’m with all my family together. Maybe it’s because of what I had to go through this year, which makes me more thankful. My heart lies when I’m with them, around a table, in a pool, in a car. As long as we’re together, that’s all that matters. That’s where the spiritual moments hide. Those breathtaking, hair-standing, goosebump-inducing moments that can’t be artificially created moments, those moments are where the heart lies, with my family.

So, in conclusion, this program made me grow a lot, both professionally/academically and personally. I explained that my whole life had been focused on academics, and I needed something outside of that. I can confidently say that I’ve grown, matured, and become more thankful through this program. I want to thank everyone involved. From Stephanie, who answered a million questions, and all the staff at Pitt that made this possible to interact, and Britta for landing this fantastic internship. Special thanks to all my lab mates and Dr. Heidecker, who took the challenge of taking me on. Lastly, thank you for all the people I was with daily, all my classmates who were here with me, who made this experience truly special. I’m signing off.

Danny Isaac