It’s not too often you come across a student who has two tremendous opportunities lined up before graduation, but can only choose one for next year.
Begin medical school in the fall or accept the offer to become a Fulbright scholar? That was the choice Nick Iwata ’19 had in front of him.
A senior biology major at Doane, Iwata has known for quite awhile he wanted to go through medical school after earning his bachelor’s degree. He began the application process last summer, applying to a number of med school programs. He received interviews with four different schools, and was accepted into three of the four programs.
Throughout this strenuous process, Iwata knew he wanted to have a back-up plan in case he wouldn’t be accepted this year. Knowing that it can be difficult to stand out among medical school applicants who are all very successful academically, Iwata thought having some great life experiences could help set him apart.
Iwata had studied abroad in the Czech Republic in the summer of 2017, taking classes at Charles University in Prague. This experience reaffirmed for him that becoming a Fulbright scholar would be something he would really enjoy, and that it would be worth looking into. Iwata connected with Kristen Hetrick, National Fellowships Advisor at Doane, about the application process into the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Dating back to 1946, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study, and teaching opportunities in over 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Government. It is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to study internationally, giving students the opportunity to research, study, and teach in a foreign country.
Historically, Doane is one of the top producers in the Midwest of Fulbright scholars. Doane has 65 Fulbright scholars in the last 52 years, including producing at least one Fulbright scholar every year dating back to 1994 (with no Fulbright scholars in 2005 being the only exception).
After Iwata’s positive experience in Central and Eastern Europe, Hetrick suggested that he apply to be a Fulbright scholar in Bulgaria. Students can only choose one country on their application process and Bulgaria seemed like an interesting opportunity. Amanda Petersen ’16 is a recent Doane graduate who was a Fulbright scholar in Bulgaria and had nothing but great things to say about her experience. Hetrick connected Iwata to Petersen, which helped affirm his interest in Bulgaria.
Iwata then found out he was accepted into the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program, now presenting himself with a difficult decision to make.
If he accepted the Fulbright offer, there was a chance he would have to re-apply for medical schools in 2020 if he could not receive a deferral. Thankfully for him, after a few weeks had passed, the top school of his choice, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (Bradenton, Florida), said that Iwata would receive early acceptance for the Class of 2024, securing his spot in the fall of 2020.
Still a difficult decision whether or not to enter medical school right away, Iwata elected to accept the Fulbright offer, allowing him to be an English Teaching Assistant at a foreign languages specialized high school in Dobrich, Bulgaria.
“I knew there would be no other opportunity in life like this where I could be in another country and teach.” Nick Iwata
Teaching is one of Iwata’s hobbies and is something he has done informally dating back to middle school when he was a tutor for a neighbor. He has served as a tutor at Doane in biology and chemistry and has worked the study help desk. He also served as a TA for Biology 110, helping with a recitation two nights a week.
“If being a doctor doesn’t pan out, I’ve always thought I would enjoy teaching,” he said. “I knew that this experience would allow me to see the world a little bit differently. Being in Bulgaria for a year will allow me to be immersed in the culture and learn their language, which won’t be easy.”
Hetrick is thrilled for Iwata to have this experience as a Fulbright scholar and says it will be beneficial for him in a number of different ways.
“It’s going to be such a unique experience for him,” she said. “He has a taste of Eastern European culture but the Czech Republic and Bulgaria are very different.
“I think it will also be helpful for Nick to be the outsider because in his future career he will likely be dealing with people coming from nontraditional backgrounds and having experience as the outsider gives you so much more empathy for when you do come into contact with those people.”
Iwata will pursue a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Lake Erie College next fall, but is unsure what his specialty will be. As of now, he says he could see himself going to a pediatric residency, acknowledging he enjoys working with kids.
Melissa Clouse, Director of Pre-Health programs at Doane, is another faculty member who has worked closely with Iwata. Clouse has had Iwata as a student in three of her classes and helped him with the medical school application process.
“Nick has a maturity academically that is impressive for someone as young as he is,” she said. “He sees how his varied experiences have helped turn him into a very successful student.”
Clouse says that Iwata is very self-motivated and disciplined. She also says that he was very generous with helping students younger than him with tips and useful resources that could benefit them on their medical school applications.
When asked what he’s looking forward to most being a Fulbright scholar, Iwata said, “Learning Bulgarian. They use the cyrillic alphabet so it will be difficult to learn. I think I will be one of a handful of people in the town that speak English.”
Iwata will begin his English Teaching Assistantship in Bulgaria in August.
To see the full list of Doane Fulbright scholars over the years, visitdoane.edu/fulbrights.