Growing up an immigrant in the United States brought a lot of life experiences that helped me persevere and stay resilient. At the age of 5, I migrated to the U.S. alongside my parents and older sister, to achieve the American Dream. Without any previous knowledge of English, or knowing what would happen in the U.S., my parent’s inspired me everyday to thrive in a new country where they knew no one. One thing that I remember from my childhood were conversations between my parents about how, no matter how hard it got, they would continue to persevere and resist to achieve their dreams. I held onto that message and that helped me pave my way through school and life.
When I was nine, my younger sister was born with down syndrome and many other health conditions. She required so much medical attention to simply just survive in her first few years of life. Watching her go through that during the long nights in hospital rooms, I reflected on and understood how important healthcare is. I wondered if children like her in India, who cannot afford health care, even had a chance at life.
I knew then that I wanted to go into healthcare as my career. I wanted to serve communities that may not have access to healthcare and face health disparities. At that young age, I was determined to go to medical school to become a doctor, who served the underserved communities and to one day open a free hospital for women back home in Punjab. My passion to do this came from living in underserved communities, both back home and in the U.S. As I grew older, I recognized how much healthcare and access differed in my community and the communities of my peers, who were from a higher social class in the suburbs of Orange County, California.
I participated in programs like Health Advocate during my time at Cal, to help connect community resources to the underserved communities and patients who were undocumented. From this, I was even more determined and passionate to continue what I want to do, to create equity in health care.
I didn’t know how I would make it through or how much I would have to pay to go to school. Luckily, I happened to read the email sent by CAA to apply for the Achievement Award. When I say that my entire decision to come to Cal was determined by the TAAP scholarship, I mean it. Through this scholarship, I am able to complete my undergraduate degree at the #1 public school in the nation as a first generation student with $0 in student debt. I was not only coached and supported throughout my time here by the community at the Alumni Scholars Program, but I also had access to amazing workshops that were offered every year.
Getting through Cal isn’t easy and there have been times I’ve felt burnt out and deferred from my medical school dreams—particularly, last year. I let outside pressure and judgements make me think that maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe medical school isn’t for me because my peers were doing all these amazing things and were born into families of doctors. Maybe I should find an alternative career in healthcare.
However, in those times it was people like my mentors, Sammie Linton, who encouraged me to get involved in residential life and Deandre Bell, who supervised me at my internship at Kaiser, who motivated me to continue.
When they say it takes a village, it definitely takes one and I didn’t understand that until now. If it wasn’t for them, I would not have been able to understand and pursue my purpose and goal in life. I want to take this opportunity to thank them both, as well as my mom, who continued to believe in me through the many different things that have come up in my life.
Although not all may believe in predestination, I am a firm believer of it. Looking back, I am grateful for all the ups and downs, victories and failures during my time at Cal because it helped shape me into the person that I am today. And I encourage all the new cohorts and TAAP scholars in the space to continue finding resiliency and lessons through all your failures. Continue to believe in yourself. Be your biggest supporter because at the end of the day, it is that small voice in your head that will keep you going here at Cal. I encourage you to tap into your resources here at the Alumni Scholars Program! Go to all the workshops because our amazing ASP staff puts in so much time and effort to find the resources that we as scholars can truly benefit from as first generation and low income students in a place like Cal. These workshops and the whole TAAP program can help bridge the huge gap between our peers and us.
As I look forward to what is to come, I can’t wait to continue my journey in healthcare and take a gap year after I graduate to gain more hands on patient care skills before applying to medical school.
Lastly, I would like to encourage the alumni and donors in the space to continue to uplift and encourage students like me, students with underprivileged backgrounds and students of color to reach their full potential. TAAP Scholars are the future leaders. By providing this support and mentorship you are not only bringing change to the student’s life but to the lives of many. You are bringing hope and encouragement to many from underserved communities to continue reaching for their dreams when they start seeing more people that look like them in fields they want to be in. I encourage you to create and make space for those who are not given space in systems, institutions, and spaces that were intentionally not built for them.
Students: If you would like to apply for The Achievement Award Program, visit the Cal Alumni Association Application Portal. Open only to prospective first years and junior transfers.