Let Life Lead

About two years ago, when I was a sophomore at Texas A&M, one of my close friends, and former CVM Ambassador, Chau Dong mentioned that in one of her classes her professor told her and other seniors who crafting post-graduation plans to just “let life lead.” This strongly resonated with her, as she was about to graduate and begin a new unexpected journey as a children’s rehabilitation aide before applying to physical therapy school.

Now, two years later, with my own college graduation around the corner, I find myself realizing that this same message is resonating with me. When I came to Texas A&M four years ago, I had so many plans for my time in college that I never thought I could just “let life lead.” One of my biggest plans, that I thought was completely set in stone, was going to medical school immediately after graduating from college.

In June of 2019, the summer before my senior year, I submitted my primary applications for medical school. However, instead of feeling a sense of satisfaction, I felt a sense of panic. I felt like I was rushing through everything and that I couldn’t take a step back to just breathe. It was at this moment that I realized that I was not ready yet. Time off before matriculating into medical school was looking more and more appealing, even though it was going against one of the biggest plans I had for myself.

After a whole summer of self-reflection and multiple discussions with my family and friends, including Chau, I realized that it was okay to not be ready. It was okay to step back, take a break and breathe. So, after changing the biggest, oldest plan I had for myself, I entered my final year of college making new plans for a gap year instead. I had truly decided to just “let life lead,” something I thought I would never do.

Now, with my senior year coming to a close and graduation being just around the corner in August, I am choosing to “let life lead” more than ever. I’m cherishing the final moments I have with my class (six feet apart of course), embracing whatever new opportunities come my way, and preparing to apply to medical school again. I thought most of my self-growth during college occurred while I was an underclassman, but when I was a senior, Texas A&M threw another life lesson my way. I’m excited to take everything I have learned at Texas A&M, both in and out of the classroom, into my future as I “let life lead.”

A Different Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving break being right around the corner, a lot of us students are jumping with excitement.

Normally during Thanksgiving break, I will make the most of my time off from school to visit with family and catch up and studying before finals week. However, this year my Thanksgiving will be a little different—I will be working a 10-hour shift at a hospital!

During my college career, I have been fortunate enough to take on two jobs. My first job is as an ambassador for the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. However, my second job is as a medical scribe in the emergency department at a local hospital.

As a medical scribe, I get to shadow doctors while typing their charts during their patient visits. As a pre-med student, I was always told to shadow physicians as much as possible to really get a good understanding of their day-to-day schedules.

With scribing, I have been able to consistently shadow while learning a copious amount of medical information. Scribing in the emergency department has also taught me how to be work efficiently because I’m often running around with the doctor who see multiple patients within a short window of time.

I have been scribing for about two years and I learn something new during every shift. This position has given me an immersive healthcare experience and I’m so thankful that I was able to pursue this while being a full-time student.

As a scribe in the emergency department, we often have to work holidays, including Thanksgiving. But even though I will be working during this Thanksgiving instead of being back home, I’m excited to see what I’ll be learning at the hospital during another long, but fun-filled shift!

Taking Time to Travel

Priya and her mother outside of the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, India
Priya and her mother outside of the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, India

As a second semester junior at Texas A&M, my schedule can be pretty draining.

Between research, an internship, my classes, studying for the MCAT, work, volunteering, and being heavily involved in my organizations, I rarely have any time to take a break from everything and do something fun for myself.

However, this year’s Spring Break provided me with the perfect opportunity to mentally, and physically, remove myself from the craziness that comes with being a busy college student.

Normally over Spring Break, you can find me volunteering at one of the many impoverished communities across the country with Alternative Spring Break. But this year I decided, instead, to take sometime to travel.

For 10 days, I was 8,742 miles away in Calcutta (Kolkata), India!

While I was there, I was able to completely immerse myself in the culture, shopping at local markets and centres, attending a local festival, visiting all of the major tourist spots, and eating a lot of good food! I also got the chance to spend time with my grandparents with whom I’m super close but do not get to visit on a regular basis.

Additionally, one of the most unexpected opportunities that presented itself to me in India was the opportunity to shadow an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist) while I was there.

It was extremely eye opening to see the differences in  aspects of healthcare and patient satisfaction. For example, the ENT I was shadowing was very well known in the area and always had an overflowing waiting room; therefore, he was trying to turn over patients as quickly as possible.

Mother Teresa's tomb, inside the Motherhouse, in Kolkata, India
Mother Teresa’s tomb, inside the Motherhouse, in Kolkata, India

In an effort to be more efficient, he would bring the next patient into his office while he was finishing up with his first patient. This resulted in each patient’s personal and private healthcare information becoming public, as it was inadvertently shared with other patients.

To someone like myself who has lived in America their entire life and has grown up with HIPPA laws being in place and enforced, the reality that patient information was so public was a very out-of-the-box concept and my eyes were truly opened to what a world without HIPPA looks like.

My time in India was short but very well spent. I was able to focus a little bit more on myself and truly live in the moment, something I tend to forget when I’m in college and always planning for the future.

I enjoyed where I was and didn’t worry about where I was going to go. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to travel somewhere else in the near future!

What it Means to be an Aggie

Priya at an Aggie Football GameIt’s that time of year again!

Texas A&M’s football season has kicked off and Saturdays are now reserved for watching the Aggies play their hearts out at Kyle Field or on TV if it’s an away game. The university has many traditions that have been organized and carried out throughout the years and one of the most treasured traditions that comes from football is the legacy of “The 12th Man.”

The 12th Man—what the student fan base is collectively known as—is a tradition and that came to be almost 100 years ago. On Jan. 2, 1922, Texas A&M was playing highly ranked Centre College at the Dixie Classic in Dallas. Not only were we losing, but our team was also plagued by multiple injuries that caused head coach Dana X. Bible to remove numerous players and their substitutes from the game. After halftime, Coach Bible noticed that the entire team was down to just 11 players and if just one more player had to be removed from the game, Texas A&M would have to forfeit to Centre College due to the lack of a full team.

It was at this moment that Coach Bible realized he needed a 12th man, someone who could step in and play when needed if another player were to be removed from the game. But Coach Bible was also aware that not every man knows how to play football so he couldn’t just pick a student at random and get ready and put on the uniform. Then, a light bulb flashed over his head and he remembered a current student and former football player who was sitting up in the press box. That student, E. King Gill. Gill, used to play for Coach Bible at Texas A&M but decided to take a break from the sport that season to focus more on basketball and baseball. Coach Bible quickly called Gill from the press box and asked him to suit up and be ready to enter the game. So, Gill wore previously injured Heine Weir’s uniform and stood on the sidelines as the 12th man of the football team.

At the end of the game, Texas A&M miraculously came out victorious against Centre College with a score of 22-14, and Gill never even had to run in to play in the game. However, we still honor him today because he was ready, waiting, and willing to play for his team if they needed him. Gill’s willingness to carry out the Aggie core value of selfless service in the football game, when his team needed him the most, has come to represent Texas A&M’s student section over the years and defines what it means to be a 12th Man.

kyle field gamedayAs a result, whether we win a game or simply run out of time (because Aggies never lose), you can always find the entire student section, rain or shine, standing throughout the game and yelling along with the Yell Leaders in support of our team and our university.

Said best by Texas A&M University itself, “The power of the 12th Man is echoed in the unity, the loyalty, and the willingness of Aggies to serve when called to so. And it is the reason that Texas A&M has earned a name that embraces Gill’s simple gesture of service: Home of the 12th Man.”

It’s hard to believe that I only have two more football seasons as current student before I start attending games as a former student! The legacy of The 12th Man is one of my favorite traditions at Texas A&M and a key factor that drew me to pursue an undergraduate career here all the way from Georgia. The traditions are what makes Texas A&M so unique from other schools, and I always feel so blessed to be a part of the Aggie family and to be able to call College Station home.

A Big Saturday in Aggieland

March 24 was not a regular Saturday here in Aggieland. In addition to the veterinary students in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences holding the 25th annual open house, it was also the day of one of my favorite annual service projects, The Big Event.

The Big Event is the largest one-day, student-run service project that allows us college students to say “thank you” to the residents of Bryan and College Station. Originally, The Big Event started at Texas A&M in the early 80s, but it has slowly spread to other schools across the country that participate in this project with us every year. This year, more than 20,000 Aggies came together for a fun-filled day of selfless service. These 20,000 Aggies registered with a group and then were assigned a site, tools, and specific tasks that the resident of that site is requesting.

This year, I was the job site leader for my small group of five. As site leader, I was in charge of checking my group in, checking out the required tools, and making sure everyone was making the most our this amazing experience.

The Big Event begins with a kickoff ceremony to get everyone hyped about helping the community. This year’s ceremony featured fire works, free food, and a send-off speech from new head football coach, Jimbo Fisher. After the ceremony, we all dispersed to stand in long lines for our tools and then shuffle over to our assigned resident.

My resident was a sweet 90-year-old grandma who lives by herself and, due to physical disabilities and a recently broken arm, had trouble with tending to her yard and reaching high places inside her house. So, our job was to lay down mulch, rake leaves, plant flowers, mow her lawn, organize her house, bring down dishes she couldn’t reach, and dust out her air vents and cabinets.

Because we were able to dedicate four hours to making her life a little easier, her yard looks amazing, with fresh mulch and flowers; her house is extremely clean; and she can finally use the supplies in her house that she couldn’t reach before. We were also able to re-organize the majority of her house so that she wouldn’t have to store things in places she couldn’t physically get to. She was extremely grateful and rewarded us for our hard work with amazing homemade pizza!

By the time I dropped off my group at their respective apartments and returned the tools, I was exhausted, covered in mosquito bites, and super sweaty. However, I was also happy and satisfied, as well. I got the amazing opportunity to get to help out the community that I live in and make a true difference in someone else’s life. The added job allowed me to have more responsibility than last year and more insight into group organization.

Overall, this year’s Big Event was a huge success! So many Aggies were able to help out the community through various chores and say “thank you” the most impactful way possible while representing the Aggie Core Values of unity and service!

A Blessing in Disguise

Priya during ASB
Priya spent last her last spring break working at an animal shelter in New Orleans as part of Texas A&M’s Alternative Spring Break project.

With spring break being less than three weeks away, I find myself remembering my spring break last year and how that one week completely changed my college career for the better.

Last year, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to New Orleans for the entire week and volunteer at an animal shelter through Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

ASB is a service-based organization in and out of the BCS community that primarily aims to provide students with a meaningful spring break experience through selfless service. Every year, a group of about 45 students choose between four projects across the country through which they can make the most out of their week away from school and classes.

Originally, I was signed up and ready to go to Oklahoma to volunteer at a Native American Reservation. When that trip was cancelled, I was, instead, placed on the New Orleans trip, which looking back was a blessing in disguise.

Beignets from NolaI remember sitting in the van en route to New Orleans and being nervous about how my spring break was going to turn out. I didn’t know anyone on my trip because I was added to it at the last minute and I didn’t know what to expect from the volunteer site.

But New Orleans changed my life. From eating beignets every morning, to playing with the sweetest dogs and cats every day and bonding with my group every night, I can definitely say I made some of my favorite college memories on that trip.

The shelter we volunteered at was heavily understaffed and there were way too many dogs and cats for all of the employees to shower with affection, so we were able to do what they couldn’t. After being in their cages all day, the larger dogs, especially, had a ton of energy and got so excited about the smallest things, even just playing with us for 10 minutes.

We left with a bunch of scratches and bruises, but it was definitely worth it to give the animals the loving attention they deserve!

Additionally, were able to help the staff, too, by cleaning cages, changing food bowls, doing laundry, giving some of the smaller dogs haircuts and baths, and organizing the very unorganized linen cabinet.

The pre-veterinary students even got the opportunity to shadow the on-site veterinarian when he was spaying and neutering the dogs that were new to the shelter.

Priya with her ASB friends
Priya, with the new friends she made during her ASB experience

After volunteering from only 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., my group and I were free to explore the city! Some of the things we did included holding baby alligators, taking Instagram-worthy pictures at the Botanical Gardens, shopping around the French Quarter and Magazine Street, going on a haunted city tour, and ending the experience by watching the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

I loved that I was able to positively impact so many people and animals through a fun volunteer experience.When the week was over and we were back in College Station, I knew that I wanted to go on another volunteer spring break trip again.

So, this year, ASB is taking me to Memphis to volunteer at a food bank in an underserved area! I can’t wait to see how Memphis will change my life like New Orleans did!

A piece of advice that I always give to prospective college students is to never be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.

I stepped outside of mine by going to a city I had never been to with people I had never met; I left with an incomparable experience, a group of people whom I now consider some of my best friends, and a new passion for selfless service.

Managing Time as a BIMS Major

Priya BandyI’m
almost half way done with my first semester of my sophomore year as
a biomedical science major. Looking back to the start of the fall
semester, I anticipated a lot of exciting things when the semester
began: another Fightin’ Texas Aggie Football season, taking courses
more geared toward my major, the sophomore wildcat (a way for
students to show class pride), earlier registration for classes,
and not wandering around campus looking completely lost. However,
after a week in, I realized I had a lot to balance, as well: a job,
demanding classes, honor societies, organizations, officer
positions for honor societies and organizations, volunteering,
shadowing, and training to become a certified first responder.

In high school, I was extremely involved, took
advanced placement classes, and also worked, and I still had time
to sleep and actively maintain a social life. In college, I’m still
extremely involved, taking hard classes, and working, but I barely
have time to sleep and actively maintain a social life. The reason
I haven’t completely shut down is because of my time management
skills. Time management is necessary, especially in college. Even
though I’m always shuffling myself from one part of campus to the
other, I still make time to study for classes and squeeze in a
couple hours of sleep and playtime with my two dogs.

The one piece of advice I always give to any
incoming freshman is to learn how to manage your time efficiently
and early. I didn’t learn how to manage my time until the end of
the second semester of my freshman year. During my first semester
in college, I always procrastinated, not really studying for my
exams as much as I should have; at that point in my college career,
my classes weren’t as hard, I wasn’t as involved, and I didn’t even
have a job. I just simply didn’t know how to utilize my time to the
best of my ability. Therefore, a drop in my grades wasn’t a
surprise, but it was a huge wake up call for me. I realized I
needed to change the way I was doing life. I stopped
procrastinating, started getting ahead in my classes, and spent
less of my time going out or watching Netflix and more of my time
in the library or volunteering at the hospital.

In short, I began making the most out of the hours
of my day and encourage everyone who may be struggling to work
toward actively managing your time; it really is the best way to
make college less stressful.