“Next up is Nazia…” I heard over the microphone. I quickly texted my sister that I was about to go up to the podium to see where I matched. My friend Vanessa accompanied me on stage for moral support. My heart was beating impossibly fast, and my hands were shaking as I introduced myself to the crowd. I opened the envelope and my heart skipped a beat as I said, “Oh my God!! I’m going to ALABAMA!!!” I had gotten my first choice in a match in Pediatrics, and I could not have been happier. Every student who enters medical school waits for Match Day : One might argue that it is even a more important day than graduation. The words written in that envelope are a culmination of all the hard work, the sweat, blood, tears, anxiety, and hours spent praying that you passed that HSF exam! Someone out there felt I was worthy of being a doctor in training at their hospital, and that was a validation for every sacrifice I made to enter medical school and stick it out to become a physician.
I was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and I moved to the States when I was eight years old. I come from a humble background, where I saw my parents put in 20 hour days at work so my sisters and I could achieve our dreams. I had wanted to be a doctor ever since I can remember, and it would not have been possible if my parents had not made so many sacrifices along the way. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, so I’m really a Southern girl raised. I stuck close to home in the South at Emory University, and I enjoyed having the freedom to grow as an individual but with all the familiarity of the city and my family around me. When I applied to medical school, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would end up in Vermont.
I applied to the UVM College of Medicine not even expecting an interview, but it came! I interviewed on the last day of interviews of UVM’s cycle in 2010, and a few weeks later I was waitlisted. I could not believe when on May 15th, 2010, a Saturday, I received an email with the offer of acceptance. I actually cried, and so did my mom (happy tears, of course). I also called UVM on Monday to confirm my acceptance was real (not kidding). I had a decision to make, because I had been accepted to a program in Georgia as well. My parents were split down the middle, because my mom wanted me to stay close to home, while my dad was thoroughly impressed by UVM’s credentials. In the end, UVM won out because I remember being so happy at interview day. I can say now that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Medical school is hard and it tests you in more ways than you can imagine. It questions your belief in yourself, and it makes you realize that you’re no longer one of the smartest kids in the class. Medical students are used to being high achievers, and now suddenly you’re just average. However, regardless of all the trials and tribulations, medical school has been the best four years of my life. I have met incredible people, done countless amazing things medically and otherwise, grown as an individual into a person that I really like, made the best friends a girl could ask for, and made a plethora of memories that I will cherish forever. I have UVM to thank for all of that because it created an environment where I could do all these things. It gave importance to collaboration in learning rather than the competition that you would expect in an environment with such high achieving, type A personalities.
In the end, I ended up exactly where I wanted to be. I will be a doctor at a phenomenal institution, where I will learn and grow, and enter the next beautiful, exciting, and nerve-wrecking phase of my life. As a Pakistani girl from a humble background, raised in the South in a family that expected excellence, moving to Vermont for medical school was not an easy task. But I will always be grateful for that acceptance and for that decision, because these four years have made me into the individual that I am today. Soon, I’ll be returning to the South, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy the southern hospitality, the sweet tea, and my occasional fried chicken, but I will never forget the things I learned during medical school in Vermont both in and out of the hospital and classrooms. Hopefully, I’ll make the UVM College of Medicine as proud of me as I am of being a graduate of their program.