Summer Spotlight: Ruchita Balasubramanian '19
Welcome to Summer Spotlight: a new feature from Health Professions Advising (HPA) where we explore the summer experiences of our students. For this Summer Spotlight, we spoke with Ruchita Balasubramanian ‘19 about her summer experience in Germany. Ruchita is a Molecular Biology major and is also working on a certificate in Global Health and Health Policy in the Woodrow Wilson School. Ruchita is quite active on campus and works as a Peer Adviser.
During the summer after her first year at Princeton, Ruchita participated in a German Summer Work program through the Department of German. German language skills are required for these opportunities, and Ruchita explained that even the interview for the program was conducted in German. While in Germany, Ruchita was given the opportunity to work in the surgical department of a teaching hospital associated with a German university located in Berlin.
As part of her work with the surgical department, Ruchita rotated throughout various departments in the hospital and shadowed doctors. This provided her with an opportunity to see how various parts of a hospital operate and work with one another to provide patient care.
I asked Ruchita to describe a typical day in her German summer work program, and she explained that a typical day was hard to find because each week of the program she found herself doing something a little different. She said most days work started at 8 or 9 in the morning and ended around 5 in the afternoon. At the start of each week, Ruchita was assigned a new station in the hospital and usually had a point person from that station she was assigned to and would follow throughout the day. In her first week, Ruchita was assigned to the post-op ward of the hospital for patients in recovery from surgery. She learned how to conduct rounds and worked with a nurse and a few of the resident physicians. Once Ruchita gained more experience and earned trust within the hospital, she was given increasing responsibilities in each of the departments she was assigned. Under strict supervision and with the consent of patients Ruchita was even given the opportunity to perform ultrasounds on patients in the hospital.
Ruchita stressed that “the entire process is also in German” so fluency is an important requirement for students interested in language department specific programs at Princeton. However, Ruchita said previous clinical experience was not a necessary prerequisite for the program, the hospital was more than happy to provide her with the necessary training to participate fully in the program. She also added that the language portion of the experience was another highlight of the summer overall. She was immersed in the language, and it forced her to apply the language skills she had learned in German to the world around her. By the end of the summer, she had gained a new appreciation for learning new languages and her confidence in learning and using new languages grew as well.
Ruchita had some pointed advice for first and second years looking for summer opportunities: “Don’t limit your options, it’s easy to get streamlined in your thinking and go for big internships that are more publicized, but if you try to follow your interests you can find opportunities almost anywhere.” In pursuing her interest in the German language, Ruchita managed to get more clinical experience in one summer working in a hospital in Germany than most pre-meds get over much longer periods of time.