“Are you a non-traditional premed student?”
As I sat in front of my computer to apply for JOWMA membership, this application question stumped me. I’m a premed student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and as one of the few Jewish students at school, I've grown accustomed to questions about myself and my lifestyle. I know to expect questions about my religion, such as:
“So, what actually is kosher?”
“Did you meet your husband for the first time at the altar?”
“Were you forced into marriage?” (this questions is always asked in a whisper)
But this question- “Are you a non-traditional premed student?”- always elicits a pause from me, begging me to consider its answer.
Generally, the term refers to people who have had a premed journey different than an average student. Traditional premed students complete high school and enroll in an undergraduate program with the goal of completing all necessary premed courses so they can apply successfully to medical school. In contrast, a non-traditional premed student often chooses to pursue a career in medicine later in life, whether after moving from another country, completing other degrees, or having a different career first.
When I think about it from that perspective, I’m pretty traditional. I graduated high school in 2014 and subsequently spent a gap year studying at a seminary in Israel before starting college, taking my MCATs, and now applying to medical school. On the other hand, I always felt different than my premed peers in college. Why? As an Orthodox Jew with strong religious obligations, I prioritized starting a family at a young age and got married during freshman year. My premed studies were interrupted when we moved halfway across the world to Israel after we first got married. We then moved to mid-America to help support and grow the small Jewish community in Omaha, Nebraska. I always viewed my rigorous premed studies as a part of my life, though not its entirety. While continuing to pursue my religious, community, and premed obligations, I also welcomed a daughter while I was a sophomore in college.
Traditional student? Definitely not.
Non-traditional? Also, not really.
So, what does that make me?
I’m someone who loves to learn and explore, and is committed to my goal of becoming a physician. I'm also a wife of a very supportive husband and the mother to a little girl entering her "terrible two's". I am well versed in religion and well-traveled. I’m passionate about giving back to my community and making a difference by helping to build the small Jewish community in Omaha, Nebraska. I’m a multifaceted student who is eagerly awaiting a career in medicine. So my premed journey has been similar to some, and very different from others. I don't know if I'd be classified as traditional or non-traditional, but does that really matter?
For now, I’ll pave my own way.