On growing the healthcare system in Belize, the MEng program, and the importance of self-careJuhi Nandwani, MEng ’20 (NE), shares about her parents’ journey from India to Belize, how she decided to pursue radiation oncology, and her goals for the future.
From India to Belize to Berkeley“Both of my parents were born and raised in Jaipur, India. My dad’s family was very poor, and he was only able to complete his studies in primary school. After primary school, he sold plastic bags to help his family with bills and necessities. When he was 18, he received an opportunity to move to Belize in Central America to work for higher pay, so he took it. He went back to India after a few years and had an arranged marriage with my mom. They both moved back to Belize shortly after and started their own family business. Belize is where I was born and raised. I completed years of studies in Belize including primary school, high school, and college. I received my associate degrees in biology and chemistry from Saint John’s College Junior College after which I competed for a Jesuit Transfer Scholarship. Luckily, I received a scholarship to Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri and received my undergraduate degree in radiation therapy on the pre-medicine track in May 2018. I took a year off after to consider whether working in the medical field was really what I wanted to do. During this time I worked as a medical scribe. I really and truly respect and admire all healthcare workers, but I concluded that the profession was not for me. I started researching various opportunities including a master’s degree in a field that would allow me to combine my love for medicine with my love for solving complex problems with creative solutions. I visited a few universities, but none of them felt right to me. At one point, I thought that I had exhausted all my options and was packing my belongings to move back home to Belize. I was running errands one day and saw a woman wearing a UC Berkeley sweatshirt. I instantly thought to myself, ‘Berkeley must have an opportunity for me.’ I went online and submitted an application to the MEng program that same day, and here I am.
On what inspired her to study and work in the field of nuclear engineeringMy parents always advised me that choosing a career path is not about fiscal outcomes; rather, it is about pursuing a career that will bring you happiness. After years of considering what I would be happy doing every day, I finally chose nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, a field that changed my life greatly while I was working towards obtaining my radiation therapist license. The lack of radiation oncology in the medical field in my home country, Belize, initially led me to radiation therapy as a baccalaureate major. Belize as a country does not have the equipment and funds to invest in a radiation oncology department in any of our hospitals at this time. This task is in the hands of the current and future generations. I personally have seen many of my acquaintances migrate to Mexico or the United States to receive treatment for their cancer-related diseases. I wish to introduce cancer care to Belizean cancer patients.
“I want to advance my knowledge in this field with hopes that one day I will be able to provide my country with cancer care by facilitating connections with healthcare facilities in the United States and establishing a fund specifically for this cause.”Other similar funding programs do exist in Belize, but none are specifically for cancer patients. In this way, I am able to do what I am truly happy doing, which is furthering my education in using radiation for the advancement of medicine while helping my country. My parents advised me to dream big, and even though this plan may seem quite intimidating, I believe that with enough knowledge, experience, and connections made, I will be able to facilitate this connective care to my country someday soon.
“I believe that with enough knowledge, experience and connections made, I will be able to facilitate this connective care to my country someday soon.”
On her experience in the MEng programThe MEng program has really helped me to define my career focus. It has given me the opportunity to speak to many working professionals on different career paths, giving me a glimpse of the industry through their eyes. Many of these professionals also work at companies that I wish to work as a part of one day. I was truly able to network through the various opportunities presented by the career development team. Additionally, my peers are amazing. Shires Hall is most of our go-to study place. It’s a comfortable location for us to study, have lunch, and socialize with our friends. The Fung team does an amazing job of putting on monthly coffee hours which gives us an opportunity to socialize with each other. We are closely-knit. This definitely makes me feel supported, and I know my friends feel the same. Overall, my experience has been very positive and I look forward to becoming an alumna of this prestigious institution.
On what she’s passionate aboutI am very passionate about practicing self-care. I truly believe that to be successful in academics, you must take care of all parts of yourself. This includes emotional wellness, mental wellness, and physical wellness. Just as you may set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals to lose 10 pounds by the end of the semester, you can set SMART goals to address your mental health. Self-care is very important because going to school is a full-time job. There is almost never time for breaks, especially for very involved programs.
“I truly believe that to be successful in academics, you must take care of all parts of yourself.”I truly believe that crafting your schedule well enough to include self-care times is necessary. Personally, I attend Restorative Yoga sessions as well as Yin Yoga sessions throughout the week. On weekends, I try to take half of a day or a full day to do absolutely nothing school-related. (The keyword is “try.”) I plan to either pamper myself and paint my nails or head to Lake Merritt for a walk. I also make sure that I write down all the tasks I have to complete, whether it be for the day or week or month. Writing down my responsibilities really helps me to de-clutter my mind. Lastly, I meditate, which also helps me to clear my mind and focus on myself as a holistic individual.” Connect with Juhi // As told to Lauren Leung Fung Features is a series dedicated to showcasing the Fung community from various cohorts and backgrounds and learning more about their lives and their stories. If you’re interested in being featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Fung Feature: Juhi Nandwani, MEng ’20 (NE) was originally published in Berkeley Master of Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.