PharmD Candidate Tala Akari on Her Experience as an International Student
How did Tala Akari first learn about MCPHS University? From a water bottle in Amman, Jordan.
“My best friend had a water bottle that said Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences on it,” says Tala, who was born in the United States but raised in Jordan. “I had known that I wanted to do pharmacy, and I was looking for schools. This was around my junior year.” Tala’s entire family had been educated in the United States, so a U.S. university dedicated to pharmacy and health sciences, her exact interests, immediately excited her. Her friend with the water bottle “said her cousin went to MCPHS, and so I applied.”
Now entering her sixth year as a PharmD candidate, Tala says she’s known since seventh grade that she wanted to be a pharmacist. Not just someone working in medicine, but a pharmacist specifically: “I was always interested in knowing how a medication can cure a disease,” she says. That interest solidified during the demanding fourth year of the PharmD program. While it was a challenging load of work, fourth year is when “you basically become a pharmacist by taking these core courses,” and the labs are a “good summation of what we might see in real life.” Tala is particularly drawn to medicine for cardiology, diabetes, and kidney diseases, and she hopes to land a residency at a hospital in New England.
Her first choice is the Boston area. Tala loves springtime in the city, and she says she experienced a refreshing diversity both in Boston in general and on the MCPHS—Boston campus. “MCPHS has a big and diverse population. Whether they’re from the Middle East, Europe, Asia—I’ve met a lot of people...a great blend of different cultures and people from different backgrounds.” Tala says that the Immigration & International Support Services office has been incredibly supportive and made the logistics and adjustments of being an international student that much easier. “I have to say that I’ve never seen an international admissions office that is as supportive to its international students as the one we have here at MCPHS.” She works in both the Admission and International offices as a way to stay involved. In doing so, Tala says she met even more people and connected with more students. Furthering her connection to MCPHS and Boston.
These in-person interactions changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, and it was a scary prospect for Tala to have her whole MCPHS experience become temporarily virtual. But she’s tried to keep her perspective, not just in understanding how important physical distancing is for the health of the global community—she chose not to travel home to Jordan so as not to risk getting her family members sick—but also in trying to see it all as a learning experience. She continues to work her two pharmacy internships at Osco Pharmacy and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and says, “I’ve learned a lot about how to be a pharmacist during a pandemic, during unforeseen circumstances, and that’s a very valuable learning experience for me.”