The science programs drew her in, but the belly dance troupe sealed Ziyodakhon Abdujabborova’s decision to attend Rutgers.
When she saw the troupe perform on Livingston Campus at an admitted student open house, she says the choice was suddenly clear: “I said, ‘I’m going to come here and I’m going to join them.’ ”
Four years later, she is still dancing, but the biological sciences major and a premed senior in the School of Arts and Sciences in New Brunswick has packed a lot of academic achievement and extracurricular activities in between.
Talk with Abdujabborova (Ziyoda is her nickname) and it’s clear she has taken advantage of nearly every apt opportunity that came her way at Rutgers. From the School of Arts and Sciences Educational Opportunity Fund Program's Summer Institute to the Summer Pre-Medical Research and Education Program at the School of Osteopathic Medicine of Rowan University, each opportunity has helped shape her academic path and career goals.
“Rutgers really prepares you well, and there’s a really good support system – so many tutoring opportunities,” Abdujabborova says. “You just have to reach out, look for it and ask for advice.”
Making the most of opportunity is something Abdujabborova has done since she and her family immigrated to the United States from Uzbekistan seven years ago. They settled near family in Randolph, N.J., where Abdujabborova attended classes via the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at Randolph High School. With four years of English study behind her, she was the sole member of her family who understood and spoke some English, and she quickly became the go-to for her parents when dealing with doctors’ offices and insurance companies – just about any complicated interaction that was a new experience for them.
“There were times when I had to step out of myself and take my parents to places, have phone conversations for them,” Abdujabborova says. The experiences helped her learn a lot quickly and gain confidence dealing with adults.
Meanwhile, supportive teachers in Randolph High’s ESL program recognized how well she was doing and suggested she move into regular biology, English and history classes. The transition to Rutgers also was eased by her decision to join the Douglass Residential College’s Living-Learning Community for Women in STEM, where mentors connected her with her first research project in the cell biology and neuroscience laboratory of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School for a semester during her freshman year.
But it was the program at the School of Osteopathic Medicine of Rowan University, where she shadowed a doctor of osteopathic medicine for the summer, and the Pre-medical Urban Leaders Summer Enrichment (PULSE) at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, that led to her decision to pursue a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. “I like that they (D.O.s) focus on primary care, get to know their patients well, and think of the body holistically,” Abdujabborova says.
Simone Mack-Bright, her New Brunswick School of Arts and Sciences Educational Opportunity Fund Program counselor, says Abdujabborova sought opportunities and listened closely to advice. “I was also impressed by how she was able to be involved and maintain an excellent GPA in a demanding major,” Mack-Bright says. “She also made sure she had a balance in her schedule by doing belly dancing throughout her academic career.”
Abdujabborova plans to take a year off to work while applying to D.O. medical programs. But she is not cruising toward graduation in her senior year. In addition to a full class load, She is a chemistry lab teaching assistant, has a work-study job at the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, tutors elementary through college students, is an Aresty research assistant in the Russian communication lab, and is working on her honors capstone project.
Plus, the belly dance troupe practices and performances continue, Abdujabborova is treasurer for the third year in a row and she helps choose the troupe’s newest members.
“It’s something that I love, something that’s so different from my major,” she says.
Click here to read about other outstanding members of the Class of 2015