Getting Ready for a New Life


Hey everyone! I am Juan, a rising Junior at Macalester College majoring in Neuroscience and I will be studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark this Fall Semester. I live in Oklahoma and am from Mexico and El Salvador, coming from an immigrant household and first-generation and low-income background. I have never been outside of the country before, so I am grateful I was selected for this scholarship as it will truly help give me a perspective as to how big and diverse our world is. This is my Pre-Departure blog and also the first blog I have ever written which is a bit daunting, but I welcome the challenge as it will be a learning experience for me.

Currently, I am trying to plan out my Fall Semester which has been a bit hard since I am conducting research at Johns Hopkins as part of an intensive 10-week program called the Amgen Scholars Program. I work at the Brown Lab on the Medical School campus investigating neurons in the cortex that project to the thalamus, called corticothalamic neurons, to learn exactly which regions of the thalamus receive the projections. This is important because we need to learn more about the circuit organization of the thalamus since there are many neurological and psychiatric disorders linked to it. The more we learn about the thalamus, the better treatments we will be able to make in the future.

I love the research I am doing and in between the breaks I get, I decide which classes I am going to take in the Fall and what I want to do in Denmark. The main reason I am studying abroad in Denmark is because of the opportunity to grow academically and professionally. I will be taking three neuroscience classes, a cancer class, and a class about human microbes and how they contribute to disease. My neuroscience courses especially, Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness and Neuropsychology of Brain Injury, are not offered at my college. Taking these courses will not only satisfy my intellectual curiosity but help me grow academically and professionally. I am currently on the MD/Ph.D. track and hope to become a Neurosurgeon and Neuroscientist. I hope to learn from professors with different ways of thinking and teaching which I believe is necessary to become the best version of myself.

I am also excited to study abroad in Denmark because of the vastly different healthcare system they have compared to the United States. While I do not know much about it yet, I am aware that Denmark has a universal healthcare system, meaning that everyone receives a form of healthcare coverage. I hope to be able to learn more about the healthcare systems through my volunteering in Denmark.

Most of all, I am excited to meet like-minded people from all over the world whom I otherwise would not have been able to meet. I believe this Fall will truly change my life for the better. If you wish to see what my life is like in a new country for a person who has never been outside the country before, I encourage you to follow my blogs via the FEA Website!