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Choumika Simonis of Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., studied human biology, health and society; minored in global health
Main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?
Being a short sprinter on Cornell's varsity women's track and field team since my freshman year. The challenges of being a student athlete forced me to be very disciplined. I also value the relationships I have formed with my teammates and coaches and the positive impact track has had on my personal and physical development.
While at Cornell, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of?
Being on the dean's list and a member of the 400 Club during my junior and senior years. My academic experience at Cornell has been extraordinarily demanding, and I have worked much harder than I imagined, so I appreciate the recognition. I also value my experiences as a teaching assistant in nutritional sciences and a tutor for organic chemistry. The positions required creativity, adjustment to different students' learning styles, as well as discovering new ways to manage my time. They were tremendous experiences.
Your most profound turning point while at Cornell?
Studying abroad in Moshi, Tanzania, with the Cornell Global Health Program in summer 2009. I took a course at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College and interned as a nutrition intern in a village on the hills of Mount Kilimanjaro for the Minjeni Women's Group Trust. I will never forget my adventures in Tanzania that summer, or the breathtaking views of Mount Kilimanjaro on my walk to class and on my way to Professor Rebecca Stoltzfus' house for weekly meetings.
Did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?
I developed an interest in studying both nutrition and anthropology. I never considered these topics or realized their major roles in the field of public health before college. Also, my original plan was to attend medical school immediately after graduation. However, I have realized that the time immediately following college is the perfect time to discover other options before I re-engage in the full-time study of medical school.
What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I plan to work in Léogâne, Haiti, as a nutrition intern for the Children's Nutrition Program of Haiti. In 10 years, I will be completing my medical residency training and working in the fields of public health and epidemiology.
Who or what at Cornell influenced your Cornell education the most?
My mother, who is a Haitian immigrant to the United States, always insisted on the importance of education. My mentor, Jolene Lane, now at Teachers College at Columbia University, whom I've known since my sophomore year of high school, has been my 'other mother,' far beyond just mentoring, and made me a more analytical thinker and a more intelligent person.
What Cornell-related scholarships/special financial benefits did you receive?
I was awarded the Jackie Robinson Foundation/Cornell scholarship as a high school senior as well as a Cornell grant during all four years. These and the other scholarships and grants I received made my Cornell education possible, especially since I bear some of the financial responsibility to help my mother pay some household bills and support my siblings with their college and boarding school fees.
What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?
Election night in 2008 -- It was clear that Barack Obama was going to win, and students started cheering and celebrating in the streets and inside my dorm. The atmosphere was electric. It was my first time voting, and I will never forget my contribution to that historic moment.