Amazing Students

Nadia Gabriel

Nadia Gabriel, a pre-dental student majoring in biological sciences, has studied abroad, conducted research, volunteered in the community, performed music and even found time to raise a puppy for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.

Hometown:

Lizella, Georgia

High School:

Stratford Academy

Degree objective:

B.S.A. in biological sciences, pre-dental

Expected graduation:

Fall 2015

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

My parents have always told my brother and me that we will have many tough decisions to make in life, and that we may have some regrets, but one thing we will never regret is getting as much education as possible. Here at UGA, I have discovered that the academic and extracurricular opportunities are endless, and I feel extremely lucky to be a part of this extraordinary institution.

My freshman year I joined the club rowing team. Although waking up at 5 a.m. several mornings a week to go to practice at Lake Yargo was tough, being on the water watching the sunrise with the people who became my closest friends is one of my fondest memories.

Immediately after my freshman year I went on a Maymester study abroad to New Zealand and Australia. I arrived at the airport not knowing anyone else on the trip, and left Australia with 30 incredible friends. We swam with wild dolphins, camped in the Outback, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, and so much more.

The summer after my freshman year I began working on a series of colorful, intricate illustrations for an organization, Rooms from the Heart, which is an incredible nonprofit that professionally redecorates children’s rooms while they are in the hospital receiving cancer treatment. I donated the pictures to be a part of the rooms, and held an art show fundraiser to raise money for Rooms from the Heart. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support the show received, and was grateful to raise $1,000 in one evening.

My sophomore year, I started coaching soccer as a volunteer for Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services. Since I had coached soccer throughout high school, I was excited to discover the opportunity to coach here in Athens! Coaching kids ranging from ages 4 to 10 can definitely be a challenge, but earning their trust and ensuring that they have fun has been such a rewarding experience. There is nothing like seeing a child transform from being shy and quiet at the beginning of the season to outgoing and confidently scoring goals as the season progresses. I really enjoyed talking to the kids about school, and convincing some of them that science and math can be cool! 

In my sophomore year I also joined the UGA Philharmonia, which was a really fun way to continue to play the violin since I have been playing since age 3. Performing some of the great classical pieces with such a talented group of students always gives me such a rush.

That summer I had the opportunity to start working in Dr. Yabsley’s lab doing research on parasitemia in turtles. Working in his lab for three semesters, I learned so much about fieldwork, lab work, turtles and much more.

The fall of my junior year I served as a volunteer at St. Mary’s Hospital, making follow-up calls to patients who had stayed at the hospital. Listening to patient experiences taught me a lot about how much patients appreciate doctors, nurses and all health care workers who go above and beyond in their work, which I hope to carry into my own practice someday.

In the spring, I went on a study abroad program to Costa Rica through the UGA Tropical Reforestation Program, where we collected data on UGA’s reforestation efforts in Costa Rica and also participated in the carbon offset program. It was awesome to see how UGA is making a difference abroad.

In Costa Rica, I developed an interest in the local sustainable combination of agriculture and reforestation. With encouragement from Dr. Navarro in her “Fighting World Hunger” class, I continued to do research on agroforestry and presented a scientific poster at the Global Forum on Obesity, Food Security, and Nutrition, which won third place. 

This past spring I went on a service-learning trip to Mexico with other members of UGA’s pre-dental society. In Mexico, we had the opportunity to work at a volunteer mobile clinic and visit schools to educate people on the importance of oral hygiene. Even though they live in extreme poverty, we were struck by how grateful the people were with simple toothbrushes and dental care that many of us take for granted.

The summer before junior year, I signed up to become a puppy raiser for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. After going through the training process myself, I received Darla as an 8-week-old puppy that fall. I carried Darla everywhere for the first few weeks, and she quickly started to learn basic commands like “sit” and “down.” I loved having her with me as I studied for hours at the MLC, because she would make me take breaks and was a constant source of positive energy. We spent countless hours walking through the park together, and she was my faithful shopping buddy. It is amazing how many people smile at you when you have a guide dog, and I am thankful for not only how accommodating UGA is of puppy raisers, but also incredibly supportive. Darla was my best friend for a year and a half, and really taught me what unconditional love is and how powerful it can be. Giving Darla back to the foundation this past March was the hardest thing I have ever done, and although I miss her every single day I am so proud of her for making it all the way as a guide dog for the blind. Speaking with her new owner made it all worth it because hearing about how Darla is giving someone a newfound confidence and independence is an indescribable feeling. I feel truly honored to have been a part of Darla’s journey toward changing someone else’s life, and also changing mine.

Additional highlights include serving on AED pre-health honor society’s executive board, helping petition to make UGA’s Arch accessible to handicap students, playing intramural soccer, and being awarded the G.A. Burson Scholarship, E.G. Dawson Scholarship, UGA Study Abroad Foundation Incentive Scholarship and a UGA Young Scholars Research Award.

Family Ties to UGA:

My mother is from the Netherlands and my father is from Egypt, so I am a first-generation Georgia Bulldog! My younger brother came to UGA a year after me and it has been really nice having a sibling here. I think it is safe to say that my entire family now bleeds red and black!

I chose to attend UGA because…

The campus is incredibly beautiful in its traditional sense with grand, old oak trees shadowing the lawns that border the white columns of campus. The new additions are designed to match, and packed with the latest resources and opportunities any college has to offer. Athens has a lovely downtown with plenty of restaurants, shops and music culture that allows students to leave their cars at home because of its proximity to the college. The football culture invites students to experience some of the biggest sports events in the nation and be part of an incredible student body. After my visit, or rather during my visit, it was an easy decision; UGA was, and has been, the best choice.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

Darla and I absolutely loved going to the park behind the IM fields every day. We would spend hours walking through the beautiful trails, listening to the Redcoat Band practice Earth, Wind and Fire songs, and meeting other UGA students, faculty and Athens locals and their dogs.

When I have free time, I like…

… going for runs through campus, hiking, reading, drawing and painting, and hanging out with my friends.

The craziest thing I've done is…

Studying abroad in New Zealand and Australia was full of crazy experiences. In one month we snorkeled with giant manta rays while staying on an island the size of a football field on the Great Barrier Reef, sailed through Fiordlands, camped in the Outback, swam with wild dolphins, and so much more. I don’t know how they managed to pack so much adventure and learning into one month, but it was truly the experience of a lifetime. Ziplining through the cloud forest in Costa Rica was also an exhilarating experience. Studying abroad with UGA does not disappoint!

My favorite place to study is…

… the MLC. I love how bright and open it is with all the big windows, and the feeling of camaraderie when it is full of other students studying. When I’m there, even if I have to study alone, I don’t feel alone because everyone else around me is studying too!

My favorite professor is…

Before I started school at UGA, one of my dad’s med students who had gone to UGA said that the best advice she could give was to ask Karl Espelie to be my adviser. I followed her advice and I am so glad I did. From the start, Dr. Espelie navigated me through the challenging task of selecting science courses as a pre-dental student, spending at least an hour with me every time we met. At such a huge university, it is really important and reassuring to know you have someone so knowledgeable who truly cares about his students looking out for you, and guiding you through what can be an overwhelming process. Dr. Espelie is not only an amazing adviser, but an incredible professor as well, beloved by all of his students. He is an excellent example of what it means to be compassionate and giving. He is a truly an inspiring individual with an original sense of humor!

Erin Dolan was also one of my favorite professors here at UGA. She really gave me an understanding of biochemistry that went far beyond memorization. Dr. Dolan was willing to work with students outside the classroom, and even had office hours via Skype when my appointment was canceled due to a snow day.

Dr. Kitchings is another professor whose class I enjoyed. He was dedicated to making sure we understood complicated math concepts and encouraged students to work with him after class for extra help. Teachers who really care about their students have made a big difference in my education.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

It would be with the next person I sit by in class or on the bus!

The great thing about technology is that it gives us almost unlimited access to celebrities and incredible people, but we only have a limited amount of time to share this amazing university with fellow classmates. Lately I have been making more of an effort to put my phone away on campus and have conversations with the people sitting around me. Everyone has a story, and I have made some of my best friends here simply by talking to the person sitting next to me in class.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

Although I believe that some failure contributes to success, if I could not fail I would make America a gun-free society. Another tragedy occurred in Oregon, at a small college, where people were going to school just like me, hoping to improve their futures. Every few months a shooting like this occurs in a school, a movie theater and even a church. Not being able to fail would mean that no amount of money or political power would prevail. Most importantly, many lives would be saved.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… go on every study abroad program that UGA has to offer!

After graduation, I plan to…

Attend dental school and hopefully have a practice one day with a big part dedicated to indigent care. Volunteering at Georgia Mission of Mercy, an event with the goal of providing dental care to 2,000 patients in two days, really opened my eyes to how many people do not have access to dental care. Having the ability to contribute toward providing people with dental care is something I look forward to with great anticipation!

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

There are so many! I will never forget the thrill of watching the Dawgs play between the hedges on a Saturday in Athens. Win or lose; it is a privilege to be a part of Dawg Nation.

I will never forget speaking with Darla’s new owner.

I will also always remember late nights spent at the MLC trying to figure out complex organic chemistry mechanisms with new friends from class. It was a struggle, but I think that sitting there with other students, bonding over our struggle and finally figuring it out, was a huge character builder. It was difficult, but finally solving each problem gave me the type of confidence I never thought I could have, and showed me how important it is to continue to push myself and learn as much as I can because it truly is an awesome privilege to attend an “institution worthy of such loyalty as the University of Georgia.”

Published Sunday,