Students entering the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory for the first time are the vanguard of a new reality for higher education, an age of virtual learning and hybrid classes, an answer to a global pandemic.
This is a mostly well-traveled and worldly-wise cohort of young people who now are exploring the universe of their ambitions through keystrokes and a digital portal. Their unique experiences in historic times will help create a map for the scholars who follow. So we’ve reached out to some BME students (on several different continents) to ask for their distinct perspectives, and how they are navigating this brand new college landscape .
Our first profile is about Nisha Rockwell of Prattville, Alabama, a small town just north of Montgomery. The oldest of three children, her family has a higher education background: Nisha’s father is an editor at Air University, and her mother is an academic advisor at Troy University.
Though she is eager to live in Atlanta on the Georgia Tech campus, Nisha chose to stay home to reduce the risk of exposure to Covid-19. “Having a high-risk family, I did not want to go to campus, then possibly be sent back home and directly expose my family to the virus,” she said. “The at-home virtual option is going good so far, although I would much rather have a normal school year on campus and without a global pandemic.”
She added, “Nobody in my family has been sick with the virus, but we have had many scares, and it was super scary waiting for the test results to get back. One of my best friends recently got tested positive for the virus, and I am just hoping her university will give her the proper care.”
Why did you choose BME at Georgia Tech: I have always loved the STEM disciplines and helping others. With my dad being a disabled veteran, I spent a lot of my childhood seeing people in difficult situations at hospitals. I know BME would provide me a way to use my love of STEM to improve the lives of others, including other disabled veterans. Georgia Tech has been my dream school for a while now. It has one of the best BME programs in the nation and is in Atlanta, a city full of opportunities and culture. After touring Georgia Tech in November last year, I immediately felt a sense of community. I knew that if I attended Georgia Tech, I would learn so much, inside and outside of the classroom, and have a true sense of belonging.
Tell us about taking classes virtually: The best part is I get a little bit of extra time with my family, and I can wear my pajamas and eat during class. I think the two most challenging parts are the different learning techniques and difficulty making friends. I am a huge extrovert and have a lot of friends from my high school, but I’ve never made friends solely through online, so I don’t have that many friends from Georgia Tech yet. There is a group-chat for all of the at-home students, though, so I’m very thankful to have them. Also, after spending 13 years of my life learning in face-to-face classroom settings, I have been so accustomed to learning that way, so learning through a screen and typing for discussions is a big change for me. I’m still trying to adapt to the change.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I love dancing (having studied a form of classical Indian dancing for seven years), driving around town with my friends, or traveling with my family. During the pandemic, however, I spend most of my free time hiking with friends, watching movies with my family, or learning a new form of dance.
Do you have advice or tips for other students? Make a planner. I have been given so many due dates already, but using a planner makes it easy for me to see what I need to do each day. Someone recommended that I use Notion, and I highly recommend it also. Also, if you are on campus, please get tested!
What are your hopes your future student experience? For your career? I hope I can finally make it to campus! I also plan on becoming very involved at Georgia Tech, having just applied to FLOs [Future Leadership Organizations] a few days ago. For my career, I hope to improve at least one person’s life through my work.