Aiza Akhtar ’22

Aiza Akhtar ’22

Sept. 2021

Hometown: Winston-Salem, NC

Home High School: Ronald Wilson Reagan High School

What's your favorite part of NCSSM Online?
My favorite part of NCSSM Online is its people. Even though I have never met the students in my classes in person, we have established amazing relationships. Everyone is always so willing to help and lend a hand, and I always feel safe and comforted in the NCSSM Online environment. When I meet my fellow classmates in person during the Online Weekends, I just know we will click instantly!

What's the biggest challenge you've encountered in the Online program?
The biggest challenge I have encountered in the Online program deals with the different learning style that is prevalent in online learning and Zoom class. We all have experienced, unfortunately, more than a year of Zoom class during the pandemic and we all know that at times, learning via Zoom or any other online platform can get dull and it is easy to lose focus. This is especially true for classes that involve hands-on/visual learning such as organic chemistry or multivariable. However, NCSSM provides for these limitations through things like textbooks and models/prototypes/hands-on learning elements that they send to your house to aid you in your learning. Thus, the challenge of online learning has not been very major at all during my time at NCSSM.

How have you met that challenge?
Like mentioned previously, NCSSM helps to alleviate this challenge through various resources. For example, I received a textbook and organic compound model kit for my organic chemistry class which I utilize daily to assist in my learning. Additionally, because the NCSSM Online community is so helping and hospitable, I have always been able to receive help through fellow classmates from group chats and communication methods that we establish.

What's an "aha" moment you've experienced in one of your Online classes?
I have experienced many "aha" moments in all of my Online classes thus far. The one I most clearly remember as an "aha" moment was in my Honors Scientific Programming class last year. I spent an entire day attempting to code a specific formula in Google Sheets that dealt with determining the grams of certain elements in fertilizers given the fertilizer quantities. The code involved various loops and statements and restrictions, etc. I was becoming frustrated because I would get one part of the code to work but then the other part would not because of the first part. I don't exactly remember how I got it, but eventually, around the evening time, after spending many minutes and hours on the assignment in between other classes and breakfast and lunch and dinner, it hit me. I realized what I needed to do to work the code, and it was so satisfying! Spending all day on the assignment paid off when the teacher commented on my work and said that my code was the most creative and efficient he had seen.

What are two of your greatest interests or passions?
My two greatest interests/passions are researching (specifically in medicine) and traveling. I have known since I was a little girl that I wanted to pursue medicine in my future, partially because I grew up in that environment with my parents being doctors and I absolutely loved the stories they told me from work. I got really into research specifically after my Summer Ventures experience two summers ago when I researched prototypes for COVID vaccines and developed my own recombinant subunit protein vaccine which I presented to all of NCSSM Summer Ventures. I am also enrolled in the AP Capstone Program, which has furthered my passion for research further. I am rather determined to pursue this path as my future. I want to always be at the forefront of medicine, always aware of the amazing new technologies that are being made everyday that are saving lives and contributing to science, and I hope to contribute some of my own. My second passion is traveling. I have been to London, France, Ireland, Turkey, Pakistan, Dubai, and many of the US states. I absolutely love seeing the different peoples and cultures, tasting the different foods, being exposed to all that the world has to offer.

If you had one year of freedom, what would you want to do?
If I had one year of freedom, I would travel, which is a great passion of mine as mentioned before. I would travel to Rawalpindi in Lahore and teach at schools. I would tell the girls at those schools that they can be anything they want to be. Another passion of mine is educational equity. I founded a community outreach program in my hometown to fight for this passion. If I had one year of freedom, I would combine these two interests of traveling and educational equity to tell little girls all around the world that they can do it, whatever it is.

During the pandemic, what have you missed most?
During the pandemic, I have missed hugging people. I am a huge hugger. I love to give friends and family hugs all the time and show how much I care about them. This is difficult to show when you are distanced from your loved ones, so I have missed that aspect of human contact the most during the pandemic.

How are you coping during the pandemic?
Initially, I was upset about the pandemic, as everyone was. I was very sad that I could not see my friends as often as I did before. However, eventually, I learned a valuable lesson from this challenge and have since coped well with the pandemic. I have learned to focus on myself and that it is good to be alone with my thoughts at times. Before the pandemic, I often relied on friends and family for comfort and happiness, but the pandemic has shown me how I can rely on myself for this.

What words of wisdom do you have for Online students?
Branch out and try new things! Sign up for clubs, reach out to fellow classmates, apply for Summer Ventures, grasp every opportunity that NCSSM gives to you if you are interested in it. NCSSM opens the door to so many possibilities, in and outside of the classroom. For example, I have become a part of the Maureen Joy TrailBlazers Program through NCSSM and applied to submit an article to the NCSSM newspaper because I love writing. Do not waste the ample opportunities that NCSSM provides.

Why should prospective students and their families consider NCSSM Online?
Prospective students and their families should consider NCSSM Online because, like mentioned earlier, it provides ample opportunities that are provided almost nowhere else in one's surroundings. My home school does not offer multivariable calculus or organic chemistry or scientific programming or nanotechnology and research, and I doubt many other schools do either. The courses offered are so thorough, engaging, unique, and one of a kind. They feed your curiosity and make you think. Additionally, you will not find a family and community anywhere else that is similar to the one at NCSSM Online: caring, hospitable, and always there for you.