Elise Manzanillo graduated in 2018 with a special major in German Cultural Studies from SSU. She is currently enrolled in the Master’s Direct Entry Nursing program at Columbia University in New York City and was also accepted into their Doctor of Nurse Practitioner program focusing on the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty track. Elise responded to Professor Michaela Grobbel’s questions via email.
1. While you were at SSU, did you have an idea of what you wanted to do after graduation?
During my time at SSU, I knew I wanted a career that was community-based because of the opportunities I experienced while volunteering through the German Club and study abroad. I always enjoyed interacting with the community through service-based projects or teaching others which were some of the reasons I joined the German Club. The club propelled me to volunteer in events that were both education and fun! Additionally, I was interested in the health care field because I wanted a career that benefited others and the community. I decided to pursue a career in healthcare and started working part-time specifically as a caregiver for people with disabilities during my last year of college.
2. How did your studies and activities at SSU influence your graduate academic and/or professional choices?
Originally, I was accepted to SSU as a Pre-Nursing major but decided to switch majors to German Cultural Studies after my return from the study abroad program. During study abroad, I was fortunate enough to study in Tübingen, Germany, where I was submerged in the German culture. This program exposed me to a very different way of living through not only their language but perspective. It allowed me to adopt a global perspective by living with a different population. Additionally, I was able to volunteer at a local Kindergarten which reaffirmed my desire to have a career that is community-based where I can work with people one-on-one. The skillset in intercultural communication elicited me to pursue a career in health care where I would be able to equitably treat patients in underprivileged populations through my experience and knowledge.
3. Tell us about your trajectory after SSU, and how did you find out about the graduate program at Columbia University?
Since my career goal was to become a nurse, I first started with getting certified as a Nursing Assistant. Then I worked at a skilled nursing facility for a year in order to get experience with one-on-one patient care in a health care facility. I eventually moved onto a Hospice/Home Health agency where I worked with multiple practitioners and familiarized myself with medications and the philosophies of health care. From graduating SSU with a Bachelor's degree, I looked into nursing programs that offered a Master's Degree in order to have flexibility within nursing departments. Ultimately, I decided to apply at Columbia University in New York City because of their values in promoting global health equity through a diverse student population coming from all backgrounds. I was accepted and am currently in their Master's Direct Entry Program for Nursing.
4. Has your special major in German Cultural Studies helped you in moving toward your career goals?
Since Columbia puts a big emphasis on global health initiatives and even offers an immersive clinical experience where one is able to travel in another country and provide health care to an underserved population I believe coming from a German Cultural Studies degree influenced my acceptance decision. Columbia looks for applicants from all walks of life with diverse backgrounds. Coming from a non-traditional degree allows me to bring in a different perspective and allows me to connect with patients in a different way. Additionally, being actively involved in the German Club really showcased leadership and community involvement within my application for nursing school.
5. What advice do you have for current students?
My advice would be to try new things, join clubs, or do something you've never done (within safe limits). College is a great opportunity to figure out what you enjoy and what truly makes you happy. Don't be discouraged if things don't go as you planned. Even if you change your major you'll find yourself on the right path eventually; it's just that people go at different paces: trust in the process! You'll be glad to have the experiences and memories even if they weren't what you expected. In the great words of Shia LaBeouf, "JUST DO IT!"
6. What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
Five years from now, I hope to finish my Doctorate in Nurse Practice, specifically as a family nurse practitioner. I want to work in a hospital setting for a couple of years to perfect my assessment skills then I would like to move into a community-based clinic focusing on strengthening and aiding underprivileged communities through both education and medicine. Eventually, I'd like to come back to California and settle down in the Bay Area since that's where my family resides.
7. Anything else that you want to add?
SSU provides many enriching opportunities when it comes to foreign languages, so I want to highlight how studying German has impacted me. I developed a plethora of skills relating to the healthcare industry by taking German classes as SSU without even realizing it. Learning a foreign language was a difficult feat. I found, however, that noting a person's physical cues and facial expressions in addition to what they were saying greatly aided my understanding of what was being said. Not only that, but it helped me predict where the conversation was going and what was said without fully comprehending the words used. These subtle nonverbal signs of communication are vital in the healthcare industry because it greatly enhances your assessment skills when treating patients, who may not be able to fully express themselves, and this can lead to a more accurate diagnosis. Additionally, studying abroad has increased my perspective and empathy by exposing me to situations I wouldn't have typically been in. I came across many obstacles like culture shock and growing pains while studying abroad but it helped me develop as a person. With these experiences, I find myself being more patient, understanding, and empathetic to others. The same characteristics are the bases of any nurse when giving patient care. German has even influenced me where I applied for grad school. I wanted to be more involved in enacting care globally, so I enrolled at Columbia University because of their global initiative program that gives care to those in impoverished areas across the globe. Even if your major does not relate to foreign languages, I still recommend taking a class because it becomes a part of your life in more ways than you realize - in the ways you communicate or how you view the world which will impact your life positively.