Interview with Jana Taoube
Jana is a senior at Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, currently double majoring in Psychology and English and minoring in Chemistry. Jana is following a pre-med track and starting her Masters in Public Health this year.
Can you tell me more about your major and why you chose it?
For psychology, initially I chose it because the best professors were in that department, which garnered my interest because I was actually learning. I have always been interested in going into psychiatry so it made sense for me to be a psychology major, even though I was a bit apprehensive about it. For English, during my sophomore year, I was asked to do an internship by my English professor since I already had so many credits accumulated so I was advised to just make it into a major instead of a minor. I also really enjoyed having a balance between my heavy classes and just being able to read a book. The minor in Chemistry just came from having my pre-med classes.
Can you tell me more about your transition from high school to college and what was it like for you to have to choose a college?
The transition was so hard. It was difficult because I had to commute for the first time in my life. One of the reasons I ended up going to Macaulay Honors was because I wanted to stay at home. I come from a large family, I have 4 younger siblings, so I didn’t want to go away. Navigating college was also a difficult transition. I think there weren’t any proper mechanisms set in place to make that smooth. I think there was some disconnect in support going in from their part.
How was campus life as an incoming freshman?
I went to class and I left. I was really involved in student government in my high school, so I wanted to join on campus but it didn’t work out because it wasn’t super organized. I met new people and saw people I had previously met. I learned how to navigate my city better because I was responsible for getting myself to places. I am part of the Muslim’s Giving Back Club but I was mostly doing things off campus. I continue serving on my community board, which I have been a part of now for 4 years.
What were some academic hardships you faced during college, especially during the pandemic?
My mother is a physician so during Covid, she couldn’t close her office. Most staff members had to face tough decisions so I had to help around the office while my classes were still going on. There were very long days and nights. But when you keep going, the days obviously continue to pass by. I think it's important to recognize that you’re not alone. During my freshman year, I learned that students just HAVE to reach out, even if you don’t think the professor will understand. I didn’t reach out my freshman year which is why I was in such a dark hole. I would focus on one class more than another, so it was important to ask for help and find that balance.
How have you remained motivated in school through all 4 years of undergraduate?
There is no other choice. What it comes down to is recognizing that if you make it your only choice to keep going, then that’s it, you have to keep going day by day. Also, giving yourself a break and talking to people around you.
How did the NVPS scholarship impact your college experience?
It was very helpful for independence purposes. When I really needed to get something, they were able to pull through. One of the things that it helped me with, during Covid, my computer completely shut down so I was able to buy a new computer. It was so readily available to me in an independent way where I was able to do that. To be able to sponsor what I want to do, academically and/or my future career, it has been so helpful.
What are you currently working on? Do you have any post-graduate plans?
The goal is to finish my Masters in Public Health next year. Then, I will be applying to medical school.
Do you have any advice for incoming college students? What did you wish you knew about college as a freshman?
The phrase that comes to mind is just have a conversation. I didn’t realize how many conversations I had with people my freshman year so that by my senior year, I realized how many people I actually knew and I was able to create meaningful relationships with them. Sometimes in the moment you don’t realize all the great wonderful things that you are doing, it kind of takes getting to the end to see it. Just have a conversation. Just go and see what it’s like. Academics is not all about cramming information but about learning what you are passionate about and living life.
How have you grown over the years from being a freshman to now a senior/graduate?
I am not scared as much as I was in the beginning. I think I feared success. Now I am at a place where I am no longer saying “Oh I am not sure about this or that”, instead “I want to do this and if it doesn’t work out then I will do this”.