A reflection on my junior college days
This is a more personal entry than my usual bantering about neuroscience-related topics.
I wasn't a very good student throughout high school, nor in my first stint at the university level. I graduated near the bottom of my high school class and dropped out of my first year of college. I didn't have any clue as to what I wanted to do but I knew I didn't want to slum around my parent's home and I know I wanted to move out of my HS town. I wound up at Santa Rosa Junior College, enrolled in science courses (lab work interested me), and hoped for the best.
I met two friends during my SRJC days: Kristopher Milland and Shamir Paraji. If it wasn't for them, I really wouldn't be in school still.
Being a very poor student had to do a lot with my priorities, which was generally impulsively skewed towards short term fun with long term dead ends. Kris shared some similarities: a video game nerd, high school underachiever, directionless. Shamir was the opposite: driven, ambitious, efficient. Kris got it in his mind that he needed to learn how to study, so he developed this insane regiment of studying (which isn't really that crazy): read the f'ing textbook chapter after the lecture gets out, take book notes, compare with your class notes. NOVEL F'ING CONCEPT. But it's something I never did before, and it's something Shamir had been doing. So we all bonded over studying and wanting to get out of Santa Rosa. And a lot of drinking and all-night cram sessions.
Over the next two years I realized I was not very academically-savvy. Definitely not as driven as Shamir nor as disciplined as Kris. I raised my GPA quite substantially, but I wasn't an A-grade student like those two. Despite my academic performance, we all began to have similar aspirations. Kris was interested in becoming a medical doctor of some sort -- initially some sort of surgery. Shamir's dream at the time was becoming a GP and moving back home to Zimbabwe. I was interested in research and development, so pharmaceutical R&D was my initial goal.
Shamir's efforts got him into medical school in the Cayman Islands straight out of junior college. He's in his last year of medical school rotations and is looking into anesthesiology. Kris's efforts wound him down at UCLA, where he majored in anthropology whilst taking all medical school prerequisites and is currently in his first year of medical school in Granada. He's interested in internal medicine. I ended up at Saint Mary's College of California, switched from chemistry instrumentation and analyses to neuroimaging instrumentation and analyses, and am now in my Ph.D program for cognitive neuroscience at Utah State University. As you may know, I'm interested in decision making.
It's been over 8 years since Shamir, Kris, and I met. That might not sound very long, but it feels like a life time. Since the SRJC days, all three of us have kept in touch as much as we could have. Last time all three of us were together was when I was at Saint Mary's in 2011 and they came to visit on a whim. I haven't seen Shamir since then, now that I think of it...
This week, I get to see these two guys again in Los Angeles. We are all very proud of each other and I always take every chance possible to talk about how Kris and Shamir guided me through how to study, and how to prepare for an exam, and how much time is needed to actually complete a full-time student's worth of homework. Many of those techniques I still use today.
So this post is more of a virtual toast to SRJC, Kris, and Shamir. Many people doubt junior college and community college students. I want to say to anyone who may be reading this as a junior/community college student who is interested in graduate level science or medicine -- don't let anyone tell you different. Kris, Shamir, and I are doing what many told us we couldn't do.
This week is ours.