“I’m an only child,” said the junior allied health major who has a concentration in bioscience technologies. “So I know it must have been a hard decision to send me to a different country, but we talk on the phone a lot, and we Skype.” And enrolling at Immaculata isn’t Jeong’s first experience in the American educational system. She first came to the U.S. as an exchange student in Connecticut, where she lived with a host family for her junior year in high school.
Then for a change of scenery she headed west, graduating in 2010 from Canyonville Christian Academy in Oregon.
“But I knew that for college, I wanted to go back east,” she said. She read a brochure from Immaculata and liked right away that it was a “small campus and a beautiful one.”
She said, “I also liked the idea of small class sizes. I didn’t visit Immaculata until the day I moved in. I guess you could say it was sort of a blind decision. But I love it here.”
Attending med school is something Jeong admitted she has been thinking about since freshman year. “I’ve talked to so many people about it,” she said. “There are so many different concentrations possible, like radiologists or the people who work on pre-op treatments. But right now, I think I want to work in a lab and study diseases.” To that end, she will spend the coming academic year at Philadelphia’s Jefferson School of Health Professions, enrolled in what is known as the 3+2 Biotechnology program. After two years at Jefferson, she will have a master’s in biotechnology, and it is then, Jeong said, that she would consider medical school, “to broaden my career opportunities.”
“I like the idea of having my own lab—a hospital lab, one at a pharmaceutical company—but I also like the idea of working with patients,” Jeong said.
In addition to her courses, Jeong said part of what she loves about being at Immaculata is the chance she’s had to be involved in “so many activities. Last year I ran the 400- and 800-meter on the track team, and in the fall, I ran cross country. I learned so much about teamwork, and about working together and staying in shape. I also learned how to balance schoolwork and activities.” In the meantime, she founded the University’s Health Sciences Club, after interviewing fellow student Brian Nowak ’12 about the Immaculata Business Club for the school paper.
The Business Club “took field trips, met people and made so many contacts. I thought, ‘Why not apply that to my major, allied health?’ So we held our first meeting, 10 or 15 people attended, and we got started,” Jeong said. “I decided to make it not only allied health majors, to be flexible and open to all, so we could get ideas from many areas, like chemistry, nutrition and exercise science.” Her sophomore year, the organization hosted a glow-in-the-dark dance that was attended by 170 students.
But she described the club’s highlight event to date as a field trip to Novartis, a pharmaceutical firm with headquarters in East Hanover, NJ. The process began, Jeong said, when she “wrote a long letter to the CEO of the research department, which was forwarded to the communications department, which I think was in Massachusetts. Then I was put in touch with New Jersey people, because it was closer to our campus.”
Over the course of six months, she spent time researching, communicating and making calls, resulting in what she described as “the most amazing four hours of my life. After a brief presentation about the company, we were each matched with a staff member, so we all got to talk one-on-one with them about their jobs and how they got where they are. We saw the labs, the animal labs and the computer labs—I couldn’t even have imagined what all of that looked like.” She has remained in touch with one of the scientists she met that day, and they are working on a summer research internship possibility.
“I found out that with companies like that, the welcome mat is not always rolled out when people like us want to visit,” Jeong noted, “so it was a great learning experience. I learned not just professional networking skills, but also about taking the initiative and using communication skills.”
But Jeong doesn’t devote every waking minute to science. “At school, for fun we go to the mall, watch movies, go to dances or I just spend time chilling with my friends,” she said. “This year, with no track, I want to get back into yoga. I taught myself in Korea with a book, and really enjoy it. I’ve learned balance and flexibility, and also patience. Yoga helps me relax, but it’s also fun.” In addition, she works with Immaculata’s Admissions Office as an ambassador.
“It’s such a great experience to meet students who might come here and their parents,” she said.
Last summer, she volunteered at a hospital in Florida after spending part of her sophomore year enrolled in an EMT-B (Emergency Medical Technician—Basic) program at Good Fellowship Ambulance and EMS Training Institute in West Chester, PA. As part of the program, she got to ride along in the back of an ambulance.
“I got to deal first-hand with so many patients and their situations. You really get to apply what you learn in the classroom to real life, including trauma and all kinds of medical emergencies,” Jeong said. “It really feels great when I get to help people. It feels amazing.”
She credited what she described as her “supportive, motivational friends and family, who consistently remind me of why I am here.” And she noted that she is thankful to “everyone I have met in my life who has helped me challenge myself physically, intellectually and spiritually.”