Dilara and other HSSP students on an Alternative Spring Break trip in Austin, TX (2017)

​My first year here at Michigan has honestly been one of the greatest in my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Coming here was an enormous transition, and looking back, I’m still quite stunned with how much my life has changed in just one year. But let’s go back and see what made my college experience different from the norm.

Sometime around June 2015 I decided that I, unlike all of my other friends, did not want to go to college in Switzerland. It just didn’t seem right. I’ve always had a knack for adventure and studying abroad seemed like a challenge that awaited tackling - so I did.

I went through all the standardized testing, through the Common App, and mountains of essay writing, and I eventually decided on a college. Deciding where to go for your undergraduate degree is already a big decision, but when your resources to explore different colleges are limited and no one in your family knows anything about the US school system, that decision seems almost impossible to make. So I just decided to follow my gut. I decided that I wanted to come to Michigan partially because of everything it had to offer, but also because it simply felt right. And now, a year later, I can say that I couldn’t have made a better choice.

I’m a very spontaneous person (much to the dismay of all my friends and family), but sometimes those in-the-moment decisions that somehow just feel right turn out to be the best ones in your life. One choice I made, that turned out particularly well, was applying to HSSP. I was about to go to a foreign country, an ocean away from home, and applying to something called a ‘Learning Community’ seemed like it would make me feel less lonely and connect me to some resources. HSSP did just that, but also much more.

The Health Sciences Scholars Program is a great opportunity and the class helped me widen my understanding of health care. But the most important and invaluable part of HSSP is its community. HSSP is the people who run it and who care so deeply about its members. HSSP is its alumni who will gladly show up at a panel or for a fun frisbee night. HSSP is the freshmen who are lost with you and will cry with you when you feel like a class is killing you, and who will spend days when the world feels like it’s coming to an end watching cartoons with you.

As a part of HSSP I was living next door to some people who would soon become my best friends - the Peer Advisors. Having not only one, but 23 PAs was the greatest thing. Not only are they the wisest sophomores I know (availability bias I’m sure) but I think of many as my very good friends. They are great resources and they understand what you’re going through, because just a year ago, they were in your shoes. On my second day here, when I was still the only freshman in HSSP who had moved in, two PAs were knocked on my door and asked me to play soccer with them. No one questioned my being there, and I was welcomed with open arms. Before that, I felt like I was at a huge disadvantage because I didn’t go to the HSSP orientation and had never seen the campus before. I didn’t know anything or anyone, but after playing soccer with the PAs, I felt like I was finally up to speed with the other freshmen, simply because the PAs never cared that I wasn’t a ‘normal’ freshman, so why would anyone else?