Welcome to Summer Spotlight: where where we explore the summer experiences of our students.
Charlotte Kunesh '24 is originally from Dayton, Ohio. Her two deepest passions are science and theater. She plans to concentrate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and earn certificates in Theatre, Music Theater, and Global Health. Her favorite Princeton class thus far has been "The Drama Within: Embodying the Immune System on Stage and Screen." She said she was drawn to this class because "while science and theater are often portrayed as polar opposites, this course presented their cross-sections by applying an artistic perspective to immunology and vice versa." Charlotte plans to attend medical school. She also plans to continue performing and being involved in theater, no matter where life takes her.
In summer of 2021, Charlotte, a rising sophomore, was a Global Health Intern for Partners for Andean Community Health (PACH), which works with a clinic in Ecuador that serves rural, indigenous populations. Charlotte knew she was interested in an international and medical-related internship, so she found the opportunity while looking on the International Internship Program website. The internship was originally going to be in-person and involve shadowing in the clinic and working directly with professionals and community members. It ended up being adapted to a virtual format, and the focus shifted to sustainable healthcare development. Charlotte worked on 3 projects focused on the development of: 1) a residency program for the clinic, 2) a permanent cornea transplant clinic, and 3) a survey to assess the effects of COVID on patients' mental health. Because its format was virtual, the work was research-based with the goal of setting the groundwork for future projects. This involved writing needs analyses for projects, creating proposals and presentations for the board, writing action plans, and creating informative pamphlets for patients and the general public. Even through its virtual format, the internship prioritized understanding the culture and people of Ecuador. For example, private Spanish and Kichwa language lessons were provided online, and there were multiple Q&A sessions with locals (including a tour guide, the owner of a cacao farm, administrators from a local university, and doctors at the clinic). While Charlotte would have preferred the internship to be in-person, she sees some major benefits that came from the virtual format. Specifically, she was able to audition and star in the musical Bright Star, which ended up being written up as the #2 theater production in Miami Valley of 2021. Her mornings were spent working with PACH, and her nights at rehearsal. Charlotte exclaimed that this balance of science and theater was "incredibly fun and fulfilling!"
Charlotte learned a lot this past summer. Working with PACH served as the impetus for her pursuing a Global Health Certificate. Because of COVID-motivated changes to the internship, Charlotte learned just how valuable adaptability is. Because a lot of the work was on her own time, she also gained more time management and self-discipline. Her ability to work on a team, specifically in a virtual setting, also strengthened. Finally, the summer taught her just how important it is to think about, understand, and respect the populations for whom you're serving and working.
Charlotte's last words of advice? Find ways to continue pursuing your non-STEM interests over the summer. Embrace them and let them be an asset to your work in STEM. Charlotte emphasizes, "I know my experience in theater and character work has definitely helped me in ways that enhance me as a candidate for medical school in terms of interpersonal skills, empathy, communication skills, and creativity."