As an out of state student, I came to the University of Michigan with no previously established social networks. As the first person in my family to attend a large, public university in the United States, I could not help but feel somewhat overwhelmed as I passed the Michigan Union on move in day of my freshman year. How will I make friends? I asked myself as we approached Couzens Hall. How will I fit in? Am I in the right place?

Despite my initial anxiety, however, I would soon find in the Health Sciences Scholars Program an invaluable network of support. Through my participation in this program, I have not only met an amazing group of people (many of whom I can call my best friends), but have also been challenged to think critically about issues in public health and the role that I can play in addressing them. The lessons that I have learned through this program could never be taught in a classroom setting, and for that I am grateful.

During my first year, I was extremely fortunate to have a Resident Advisor who was deeply invested in the well being and success of the first year students in her hall. From taking the time to ask us about our day to connecting us with self-care resources, she played a pivotal role in making Couzens Hall my home away from home. By maintaining an open door policy and a positive attitude, she encouraged all of us to persevere, embrace discomfort and practice empathy in all facets of our life. To this day, my freshman year Resident Advisor is one of my most powerful role models in my life and has inspired me to give back to other first year students. As I returned during my subsequent years as a Peer Advisor and now a Resident Advisor, I reflect upon everything she taught me. It is my goal to give back to this community even a fraction of what she gave to those who knew her.

As a Resident Advisor, I have the unique opportunity of connecting our first year students with various resources within the hall and across campus. Through my role, I have the ability to collaborate with my co-Resident Advisors  and host events that promote health and wellness. Perhaps the most rewarding part of my job, however, is being able to form relationships with each first year student and work diligently to promote a space that is comfortable, equitable and inviting to all. In recognizing that each student only has one freshman year, it is my hope to do what I can to make you feel as welcome as I was made to feel when I first entered the University of Michigan.

To those students who are considering applying to our program, I strongly encourage you to follow through. Our learning community collectively grows when you carry your unique perspectives, interests and passions to the table. Wherever your interest lies in the field of healthcare—or if you are completely unsure about what path you would like to pursue—I can guarantee that our program will welcome you with open arms and heighten your understanding of various social issues.  I will hopefully see some of you in September; but until then, welcome to Michigan!


Neel Swamy is a rising senior and Resident Advisor (RA) for HSSP. He is currently a Senior Editor for the Michigan in Color (MiC) column of The Michigan Daily.