EP114 Student Ambassadors: Day One at NYU GPH

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EP114 Student Ambassadors: Day One at NYU GPH

Aman: Folks, welcome to another episode of the I AM GPH podcast. Today is my first triple threat podcast. We have three people tuning in for this episode, and they're currently students at NYU GPH, and they're gonna be sharing their words of wisdom, experiences, and even mindsets that you can employ when you apply to NYU yourself, or even if you're interested in the GPH experience in general. We have Zhihao Edward, Nina, and Natalie. I'm gonna let you folks introduce yourself today, since it will be a more unique intro for the each of us. Let's start with you, Zhihao.

Zhihao: Hi, everybody. I'm Zhihao Chen. I also go by Edward. I am a second year Biostats student in NYU GPH here. My current research focus is in patient network, along with causal inference. And I'm working in the tobacco research lab with Dr. Raymond Niaura as well as Dr. Vojjala. Thank you.

Aman: Nice. Nice. Welcome. Glad to have you here. Let's go ahead. Nina.

Nina: Hi, I'm Nina. I'm from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I'm also second year student at GPH, but my focus is in Epidemiology. My research focus is mental health and substance abuse. Right now, I'm doing an internship at Fordham University, and I love living in New York.

Aman: Love to hear that. That must be great to hear for the people that are joining us soon. Natalie.

Natalie: Hi, I'm Natalie. I'm from Canberra, Australia. Like Nina, actually I'm a second year Master in Public Health student in Epi. My research that I'm working on at the moment is with cancer patients and caregivers in Vietnam. The team that I'm working with, we're actually developing a mobile app to provide a novel psychosocial support intervention. Yeah, I also love, so much, living in New York City. It's definitely my favorite city I've ever lived in my whole life.

Aman: You're gonna hear a lot of New York City on this podcast, folks. But I'm curious, to start us off with the concept of GPH, 'cause all of you have mentioned something unique, and it's a different area, but we're all a part of this GPH family over here right now. So what was your "aha moment" when you decided that, "Hey, I wanna be a part of public health and join Global Public Health or be a part of it."? I'd love to hear from all of you, because there's so much variety going on, but what made you choose your path? Where did you come from and how did you establish that, "Hey, I'm gonna be a part of the Global Public Health world."?

Zhihao: Yeah, I can go go first. Yeah, sorry. So my undergrad degree was in Computational Biology and I took an intro course to Biostats on my, I believe, senior year. It's kind of late, but that course really enlightened me to see into the data science part in terms of biology or medical or even clinical background. So when I'm applying to a Master degree, which is by the fifth year of my undergrad, I discovered... Well, coincidentally, the COVID come into place; I believe that's a huge impact for everybody. I just, researching in the public health field and I see, okay, Biostats is actually offered in the medical school as well as in public health. So that's why I stumbled onto it. And I see, "Oh, this is a great chance or great opportunity for me to discover a whole range of different topics in terms of data that I can work with, in terms of methodology or in application." That's for my case.

Aman: Love it.

Nina: For me, I actually did my undergrad in Biomedical Sciences, and I was originally gonna go the MD route. But then I worked in a level one trauma center emergency department for four years post graduating. And I realized that the clinical healthcare world isn't for me. I realized I don't like the way that healthcare is practiced in the US. You know, there's a lot of issues. Looking into public health and epidemiology, it's more that you start at the source of the issue instead of trying to fix it after it's already occurred. So I realized that's more what I'm interested in than seeing people who are already so late in their stages and then you're trying to fix something that's been going on for so long. I like the preventative side of public health, for sure.

Aman: Yeah. Nothing like targeting the root rather than the symptoms overall. Love to hear that.

Natalie: My journey, funnily enough, was kind of the opposite of Nina's, and we've talked about this, because I had, for the last probably two years of my undergraduate degree, I was pre-med biology. And I'd been thinking about doing a Master in public health. Then I worked in a hospital as well, in a similar role to Nina, but a different department. And for me, it actually solidified me wanting to get into the clinical side of medicine. But I saw a lot of opportunity to apply the concepts that are taught and the skills that are taught in public health into clinical medicine. That's my route with this degree and why I chose to go into public health.

Aman: Gotta love it. Gotta love it. Now let's fast forward a bit, since all of you have been a part of the public health field and at NYU for a bit. A lot of students would like to hear about the concept of internships, labs, perhaps, clubs. Can you share some experiences with any of these words that come to your mind in your time that you have been at NYU? And how do you find an internship? What was your journey? How did clubs help you, perhaps? You all can target the one thing that applies to you or even talk about them both. Let's start with you, Natalie.

Natalie: Yeah. For me, I got involved in the research projects. I'm currently involved in one, but I was involved in another one as well. It was sent out as an email to all of the GPH students, I think, or all of the Epi students, but also through talking to different staff in the GPH department, in student affairs, and other professors, just reaching out to them personally if you have class with them, 'cause a lot of them are doing research and are looking for research assistants. So yeah, that's kind of how I found out about it, through the system that we have set up here at GPH to disseminate roles for research assistant positions and internships that come up.

Aman: Gotcha. For those of you that are randomly listening to this podcast and not a part of public health, this applies to any field, for that matter. Talk to the people around you, and that's exactly what Natalie's done. Awesome. What about you Zhihao?

Zhizhao: Yeah, for me, it's kind of random because we have, for Biostats in specific, we have a project called consulting lab. The purpose is clinical or even from hospital faculty or a professor, they will bring their issue, in terms of the data science part. They don't know what kind of analysis they wanna do. So they bring their issue and data to us, Biostatistics, and we try to solve their problem, in terms of what kind of analysis should apply, what kind of other variable you could collect if you are designing a research for the future. So that is a great chance that I can stumble onto. A lot of professors and opportunities to get involved in the research. For me, the current lab that I'm working with is still, same as Natalie just introduced, talk with your professor. Read their article and approach them personally. Say, "Oh, you're doing this. I'm really interested in your following project or I have some thoughts about your current, the article you just published. I wanna see if I can have a chance to talk with you further and just get along with your role." But I definitely got rejected a couple times, even in GPH, but that's common. Everybody is not having a shared common opportunity for everybody, right? They have different research interests or maybe just simply you are not... you are incapable of doing what they're doing right now, but that's okay. You just need to keep trying. And that process might be frustrating, but you have to keep trying.

Aman: Words of wisdom, right there. Love to hear that, man. Nina.

Nina: What I tell a lot of the incoming students, when they ask this question, my advice is always that there's so much opportunity at NYU in general, GPH, specifically, sends out emails weekly with different people speaking, different opportunities, just different things that you can attend. I like to say, I wanna get the most out of my experience. I like to try to go to everything. There's definitely, when you're sending out those cold emails, when you're looking for someone specifically, there is a lot of rejection or a lot of nothing on the other end because you have to think about people are busy, okay, but there is so much opportunity. And if you just, as a grad student, you have to really like take it, take advantage of your own path and put yourself out there. Then there's so much that you can get into. It's the same thing with the internships. I looked for something specifically of what I wanted to do with substance abuse prevention. When you, once you get that interview and you can actually talk to someone face-to-face, and they see that you're passionate, I think that it goes a long way. Then as far as clubs, I'm actually now the president of the EPIC club. So anyone who's gonna be in NYU 2022-2023, I'm the president. Reach out if you wanna join the club, 'cause we have a whole new e-board and we're gonna be being a lot more interactive with GPH in a lot of fun events and stuff.

Aman: Awesome stuff on the internships, everyone, and about the interconnected community, using what you have available, show up to things that will only benefit you. And about the clubs, NYU has some great, great facilities and systems around the concept of clubs. Use them. There's hundreds of clubs at the school, and you'll definitely find something that you're looking for out here. Cool. Cool. All right, folks, I'd love to hop into some general advice topics. A lot of folks that are coming into NYU might ask these questions. So I'm curious to know what should the new students that are coming into NYU know before they come to NYU, GPH, specifically?

Nina: I would say again, be ready to push yourself in all new ways. The opportunities are all around you, especially in the school, and you just need to go out and get them. They're there for you and they can push you a lot in your career path following graduation.

Natalie: Yeah. I always tell people that NYU is kind of free networking. A lot of world-renowned scientists have come through NYU or are affiliated with NYU. There's a lot of groundbreaking research going on. I really think that you just have to put yourself out there. It's great if you have a solid resume heading into this school that you can just send out. I think that really helps. And just establishing a rapport, you know. Be friendly. Say hi. Go and say hi to your advisor. Find out who they are. Go there and say, "Hey, I'm Natalie. I'm just starting here. Great to meet you." Talk to your professors. Introduce yourself at the end of class during the first week. They really love teaching, and they wanna help the students in any way they can.

Zhihao: Yeah. I would probably pick up on something, not that broad or not that academic. I would say, "Know your place, where to stay, where to hang out, in the school." If you have a quiet place or a comfortable place that you can work on your project or just study quietly. I think that's, for me personally, that's a big deal that a school could offer. For us, GPH is lucky to have a brand new building and the third floor is completely open for you to discuss whatever issue or any project you wish to discuss. There's also rooms that you can reserve. While this may be subject to change the future, I'm just saying explore the resources, various resources in the school that you can use.

Aman: Yeah. For those of you folks coming into NYU this year or the following years, we've been very lucky. There's a huge building, 708 Broadway, that the students have access to. Great, great facility out there. Lots of new things coming up. It's a really, really cool spot. Speaking of this team that we're on, what was the best piece of advice all three of you received in your first month, perhaps even the first semester at NYU, that stands out to you today?

Nina: For me, I was so stressed about taking loans out, and everybody was like, "Don't worry. It's an investment on yourself." And I think that really stuck with me because it's really, you're making a big leap, you know, when you go to any graduate school program. I think that just remembering that everything that you're doing is truly an investment in your future, so do it to the best of your abilities.

Natalie: I was really kind of stressed about getting a job on campus in my first semester. And my advisor was just kind of like, "You know, it's very difficult to get a job your first semester, 'cause no one knows who you are. So just relax and keep putting feelers out for stuff in the spring and stuff." And sure enough, very easily, I got a course assistant position in the spring. I got two research assistant positions. So, yeah. I was very glad that he told me to chill a little bit, 'cause yeah, I was getting very stressed.

Zhihao: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For me, the same thing. You would definitely be anxious about your own progress, especially looking around students; maybe somebody is moving faster than you. They have a research or they have two teaching assistant positions, but I mean, yeah, it's not like you have to virtually slow down, but just keep your pace, work towards that goal. For me, it's like for the first month, the biggest advice I get is just how to survive in general in New York City, actually, also around NYU, 'cause the fast pace and the people here is really different from what I had in undergrad. And that's the biggest challenge for me, especially in a hot summer like this. Just kind of, you have to get used to the subway, to the buses, and where to eat, all that kind of stuff. But eventually, you will find your position and you'll be enjoying that part.

Aman: Speaking of finding what you're looking for, what are some expectations versus realities? So you folks came in, you had some expectation perhaps about New York, about NYU, about the Global Public Health school. What were the expectations, and what was the reality compared to? What comes to your mind right now?

Nina: I would say I had a good expectation of New York City because I used to come here every year, once a year with my mom when I was a teenager. So I kind of easily got adjusted to that side of it. But as far as expectations versus reality with NYU, I would say that my expectations were exceeded, because I just feel like, again, I keep saying so much opportunity, but there really is. I feel like even in my first semester, I learned so much. You know when you're an undergrad, and you have to take a lot of these classes that you're like, "Why am I taking this class?" I have not had that here. I've only taken, I feel like most, all of the classes, are really applicable to my future and I've truly learned a lot. So I would say my expectations were definitely exceeded.

Aman: Love to hear that.

Natalie: I think mine were exceeded too, but more just on living in New York City in general. I think there's a lot of expectations that it's a really dangerous city, especially as a single young woman, I think. And I was pleasantly surprised that I really haven't been in many situations, if any, really, where I felt really unsafe by myself, even late at night, and I don't live directly around campus. I live in a different neighborhood. So I was pleasantly surprised with how safe I feel around here, even on campus. There's a lot of campus security around, and the campus security office is really centralized.

Zhihao: Yeah, for me, there's downside, there's upside for expectation. In a good place is, straightforward, there's a lot of good things, good stuff, good meals, restaurants around campus. You can check a lot of that. Well, if you are not that tight on the financial side. Just speaking, kidding. But the other side is, same thing, your budget is like, the housing costs or just, in general, living costs in New York City is way out of my expectations.

Nina: That's true.

Zhihao: Unmeasurable compared to what I had, which was in Austin, Texas, it's nothing. But here, you have to spend a lot larger amount of your budget on housing alone, and you probably have to balance a little bit around here and there and maybe try to even adjust your living community depending on your budget. I would say that's one of my biggest expectations that is not what I thought.

Aman: Yeah, folks. New York is a very unique place. You can pay twice the amount of money and get half the amount of space. It's an amazing place to be a part of.

Zhihao: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Aman: Love it. Love it. So before we hop into our rapid fire round, I'd like for you folks to share some resources at NYU that you've found helpful throughout your time over there so far.

Nina: For me, the biggest resource has honestly been my advisor Andrea, for the Epi people. I know it goes by last name, but if you get him, he's the best. I was emailing him. Classes start in September, okay? And I was emailing him in March with questions because I'm so neurotic and I just wanna get everything ahead of time. And he answered all my questions and he calmed me down and he's always available to chat. He's always available for a Zoom. And he really has all the answers. And even, sometimes all you need to hear is, "It's gonna be okay," and he, anything. You're looking for an opportunity. You're looking for, "Should I take this class versus this class? Should I join this?" He has all the answers and he's been the best, by far.

Aman: Beautiful.

Zhihao: Well, if you're bringing that, I'm not letting my professor down. Julie is the best for Biostats. Remember that. Go check with her. Go talk with her. Even just for nothing, not just for advising, if you just randomly stumble into her on the third floor or any place in the 708, go talk to her. She's a really cool and nice person on everything. She knows a lot of things about NYC, not just about the university, but the city in general. And you can check up with your progress. Or even before you enter NYU, you can shoot her an email if she is not that busy. Usually, she's busy. But do use that kind of resource. The other one is just talk to all your faculties, like I mentioned before. They might be busy, but reach out to them and you'll be surprised what kind of help you will get.

Natalie: Yeah. I can definitely second Nina's story with Andrea. He's also my advisor. And from an international student perspective, he's phenomenal. He knows so much about the little intricacies of being an international student. I've also found the student health center to be a really good resource.

Zhihao: Agreed.

Natalie: They have very good counseling services, if that's something that you want, a student wants to explore. Also their physicians and nursing staff that work in the women's health and the, I guess, family medicine, general practitioner section, have been awesome. The pharmacy is great. That's a great resource to look at, 'cause they have things for a lot cheaper than CVS or Walgreens do. So that's definitely been a really great resource the past 12 months.

Aman: Yeah. The student health center is a place where all students coming in should be aware of. It's an amazing resource that NYU has, and you never know what might happen. So keep aware, ask questions. Everyone's there to support you. They're very, very welcoming, kind, open. So go for it and ask those questions. With that, let's hop into some rapid fire, folks. I'd love for the three of you to give shorter than a sentence answer. If you have a burning passion about the answer, go for it. Let's keep them short because we have a few questions that go forward. It's open to you. I'm not gonna call your name. Just give the answer as per your mind. Listeners, welcome to the rapid fire round with Nina, Zhihao, and Natalie. Our first question is, tell us about your experiences of moving into New York City. If you could leave us with one thing around this topic that requires more of an essay answer, what would be a sentence around the topic of moving to New York?

Zhihao: All right. All right. I'll just go for it. I shipped five big boxes, which weighed 50 pounds, from Austin. Done.

Nina: Elevator over walk-ups. Elevator over walk-ups. That is my answer for moving. Elevator over walk-ups.

Natalie: If you can afford movers, hire movers. I didn't the last two times, and each time, I regret it. It is worth it, 100%.

Aman: Couldn't agree more with all these answers. Best places to eat around NYU?

Natalie: Matto Coffee, 100%. Everything is $2.50 in the app. So good.

Nina: It's true. John's or Bleecker for pizza. It's close to campus. Karakatta's my favorite ramen spot. Then for a good deal, Soho Sushi on Sullivan Street, right by NYU, has $14 lunch specials. In the city, that's so cheap.

Zhihao: There's one Chinese restaurant on 8th Street on the east side of the school. I don't exactly know the English name. If you go with a bunch of people, it can be an affordable meal, and it is really legit Chinese food.

Aman: Love it. We heard something from Natalie, but your ideal coffee/tea spot in the city?

Nina: Ground Central. They have this super frothy lavender oatmeal latte, chai tea latte. That's my spot.

Natalie: My favorite place off campus is Black Fox coffee. It's downtown Manhattan. They have a butterscotch latte.

Aman: Wow.

Natalie: Chef's kiss.

Zhihao: I'm a boring person. I just go grab a cold brew from Starbucks and I'm ready to work. Sorry.

Nina: I just have to add that coffee and the food in New York, when you're coming here, is amazing. Everything. The hype about New York City's food is real, because everything is always really good.

Natalie: Yeah.

Aman: Some of your favorite classes at NYU so far?

Natalie: Global Environmental Health with Dr. Caravanos. Awesome.

Nina: I agree with Natalie. We were in that class together. I also like the class Global Issues in Social and Behavior Health because it was an open chatting forum, which I really liked, 'cause I think it helped students to learn more because it was really open discussion for more than half of the class period.

Zhizhao: Machine Learning. Sorry.

Aman: Machine Learning. Love it. Love it. Love it. We spoke about the hustle and bustle of New York City. A lot of people are in for experiencing a lot of hustle and bustle. Where's your calm place in the city?

Nina: Central Park. I live right on the park. So I just go there. I bring a blanket, lay out in the Sheep's Meadow and that's my calm place.

Natalie: I live downtown, so the Hudson River side, the walk from Battery Park City, just as far as you can go, is really nice. Or Prospect Park in Brooklyn is also beautiful, and the Botanic Gardens are out there. Really gorgeous. Yeah.

Zhihao: Well, I would suggest something from New Jersey, actually, City of Hoboken. The riverside is really cool and it has big grassland. You can just relax on it. Super good.

Aman: How do you, what is the best way to make friends at NYU or in NYC? It's a city that has a lot going on, might be socially intimidating. What is the best way to find your community at New York?

Nina: For me, it was during classes. Just find, you find students who are like-minded, like the same kind of studying style, how they wanna push themselves, and then you end up really having the same kind of "going out" night lifestyle because you kind of have the same goal. So, you know, you have a good balance. So I think just talking to your classmates, really.

Natalie: Yeah. I agree with that. Also, whenever there's events held by GPH on the third floor, go to those or the orientation cruise is a great opportunity to meet people. I met a bunch of people that I'm still friends with a year later on the cruise.

Zhihao: Or if you're an international student, take advantage of the Global, what is it?

Natalie: Office of Global...

Zhihao: OGS. Office of Global Services. Yes. They have a lot of incoming events for new students and you can even practice your English, if necessary. They offer that kind of opportunity as well.

Aman: Agreed. You folks are dropping bombshells. There's so much good information in everything you're saying. I'm learning stuff out of it, and I've been in New York for a long time, too. Nice. All right. Best way to balance your academic and social life in such an overwhelming city?

Nina: I'm a big planner person. So I have a planner. It has time slots. I'm a big checklist, planner, time slots person. Just time management, really.

Natalie: I'd say get your work done as early as you can to keep your weekends free. So you can go out and just do whatever you wanna do. There's so much to do.

Zhihao: Yeah. Or if it's necessary, then you have to sacrifice a bit, and bits and bobs, little bit here and there. Know what you can handle, in terms of both academic and your social life.

Aman: So this might be another one that takes a lot of time to answer, but we all have weather stories. New York has the most erratic weather, all around the board. It's hot. It's too cold. It's freezing. It's boiling. I'd love to hear a weather story from each of you.

Zhihao: Well, the winter is kind of long. I believe it's by the end of September all the way to maybe mid-April. Well, this year is even longer than that, in my feeling, and the winter is long and dark. The sunset could be as early as 4:00pm and you have really long and dark days. Probably when you're leaving home, it's still dark, and we're out of the 708 building and it's dark again. So be prepared of that and just get yourself in a good mood in the long winter. But you will get used to it.

Nina: Yeah. Piggybacking off of that, dress appropriately, because you'll go to school in the morning during the winter and you're like, "Oh, a light jacket and jeans is fine." Then when you come out of class and it's dark and you're freezing. So bring a jacket, just bring the jacket. Who cares? Stuff it in your backpack. But I would say, for me personally, coming from Florida, I was like, "Oh, I'm from Florida. It's so hot there. The summer in New York is gonna be nothing." Then you have summer in the city, and the city is so hot because it's just concrete, concrete, concrete. Then a lot of places don't have central AC. So you walk into a restaurant and you expect to... In Florida, you get a big cool down. So the takeaway is summers are super hot and winters are super cold.

Natalie: Yeah. I remember at the end of last summer, there was just torrential downpour of rain and the subways got flooded. So I was trying to actually go to see a friend and could not. You physically couldn't move. Uber prices were just exorbitant. So I literally had to just sit in my apartment for like two days until the subways were back to normal. So, yeah. Just be prepared. End of August, start of September, there can be some crazy rain.

Nina: Yeah, it's true.

Aman: If you can't get an umbrella, you can always get a jet ski. New York, Queens.

Nina: Canoe, jet ski.

Natalie: Yeah. Right.

Aman: All right. Well, folks, that was the rapid fire round, and amazing, amazing answers, full of value, I'm sure. Everyone's gonna get a lot out of that because I certainly did, and I've been in New York for a long time. The last question that I'd like to conclude with is the motivations that keep you going in this public health world. What is your "why" that makes you a part of this public health world and keeps you going over here?

Nina: Specifically for me, my focus is substance abuse prevention. And my story is I have a lot of family members who have struggled with their own substance abuse battles. I've kind of seen the inside of that ugly battle. So that really pushes me to, you know, wanna work, to do my best in that public health field, because I have my own personal history with that.

Natalie: For me, I think, in all the places I've lived throughout my life, I've noticed a lot of inequity and resource inequity. That's something that has always really bothered me. So I would say that that's my "why", trying to make sure that people know what resources are available to them and then finding gaps where there aren't resources and implementing plans to develop them.

Zhizhao: Well, for me, it's like there's still data to be minded. There's always a new data set national service to be explored. Also, there's things I just simply want to learn. There's new topics every day, and every day, you really come up with this paper, and paper after paper. There's fields that haven't been explored by myself. So I cannot stop here.

Aman: Beautiful. Thank you all for all these lovely, lovely answers. It was amazing to learn more about all of you and all the value you've offered to the listeners down the line. Natalie, Zhihao, and Nina, thanks for tuning in and being a part of this episode. Students are gonna get a lot of value from this, and folks, we are gonna have links in the description for the podcast for future episodes. Thanks for tuning in, and we'll see you in the next one. Thanks, folks.

All: Thank you.