By VASUMATHI VENKAT ‘22
We’ve all experienced the difficulties of being a student during the pandemic. Some of our parents are frontline workers—doctors and nurses—who risk their lives every day. However, what does it mean to be a nursing student during the pandemic, facing the short straw on both ends? Known for being an avid soccer player, involved in the National Spanish Honor Society, and a part of StuCo during her time in high school, Sara Muñoz ‘19 shares her experiences beyond the halls of Edison High.
The Eagles’ Eye contacted Muñoz, a sophomore at TCNJ, for a chat about her experiences transitioning from high school to college. She explains the shift from college in-person to virtual learning, as well as what that means for a nursing major.
EE: How do you think EHS prepared you for the college experience, specifically the nursing major? Or rather, what would you say is the main difference?
SM: I definitely think that I was lucky. I had a lot of great teachers at EHS, and everyone would let you know: This [assignment] is what you would be expected to do in college. I feel like Mrs. Frey especially lets you know exactly what she wants, and honestly, I think that’s very helpful in college. In some ways, there’s definitely more hand-holding [in high school], but I think that they [the teachers] set high expectations. The teachers really try to instill in us to do the work that you need to get where you want to be.
I didn’t really take a lot of science classes in high school. I didn’t really love bio or anything like that…, but the few classes I did take, they helped set the basis. One of the classes that really helped was, I will say, Mrs. Pryzgoda’s Anatomy class. She always says in her class that she just tries to lay a foundation and that this is not like a course you’re going to take in college. Honestly, I think I really appreciated it in college because she told us all the time: You’re not going to learn everything in detail here, but I want you guys to be familiar.
EE: Did you always know you were going to go into nursing and STEM? Or were you more inclined towards the arts and humanities?
SM: No, I definitely didn’t. At the beginning of high school, I was really unsure. I always thought I was going to be more towards the humanities—at times, a teacher—before I decided nursing. I thought I wanted to go into psych, and I really thought I wanted to be a psychologist. But, I worked with kids in high school—I worked at a daycare—and that really showed me that I’m good at being a caretaker. It wasn’t until chem as a sophomore in Ms. McGrory’s class when she made us do a project about a potential career—and I decided to research nursing—that I decided to go through with it. I definitely didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I wasn’t a STEM person in high school at all. I think it was junior year that I decided this was what I wanted to do.
EE: What major would you have pursued if not this one, and why?
SM: I might have pursued psych, maybe even teaching. Now that I’m here, I don’t think I can really see myself in a lot of other places. I would probably be pursuing psych because it goes along with wanting to help people. I think I’m really great at listening to others and talking to my friends, so that’s always something I wanted to pursue. Honestly, what turned me away was the fact that if I wanted to study psych, I wouldn’t be able to have my own practice as you have to go to school for 8 years for that.
EE: Seems like you found your calling. Nursing is a very studying-intensive major, and you participated in many activities during high school. What’s your secret to time management? I’m sure a lot of high schoolers, including myself, would want to know.
SM: Every semester is super different, so time management each semester is also something that’ll change. Don’t stress yourself out too much right now, you’ll definitely learn what you need to do in order to get everything done. It seems really intimidating, but I was definitely like that in high school—I wasn’t perfect. I tried, but it was hard.
EE: How would you describe your transition from high school to college?
SM: In all honesty, the transition was very hard. I think a lot of people are embarrassed to say it but in some ways, yes, and in some ways, no. But personally, I think my transition was unique because I’m in an EOF program.
Basically, the summer before freshman year, I spent 5 weeks on campus. You basically get to start not early, but get an extra semester kind of. It’s shorter than the average semester. That’s something I’m very thankful for, but at the same time, it was really difficult because the EOF program at my school is one of the top ones in the state. The standard that they hold us to and the things that they teach us—it seems really tough at first, but it pays off. In the moment, that summer was really hard for me because I was taking college courses—two STEM courses and a race and gender class—over the summer. It’s the first time you’re taking college courses, and they’re shortened.
I know not everyone gets to experience that, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone. It has helped me tremendously because when you’re part of an EOF program, you get an additional EOF advisor, and you’re with people in your major throughout the summer. When you move forward into the fall semester, they continue to be in touch with you. The adjustment was hard, but honestly, that summer made the adjustment for freshman fall a lot easier. I felt very comfortable on campus. I knew my way around, and it was because I’d had my transition over the summer.
Once you get the hang of it, you start to have fun. It was tough. I’m not gonna lie; it was challenging at first because you have to learn to balance your classes, you miss home, and you’re in an unfamiliar place. But, it gets better.
EE: If you could go back to freshman year of high school, is there anything you regret? Anything you would change?
SM: I think the only thing I would change is that I would push myself to be more involved. I wish I had pushed myself to be on the Student Council formally, but I really enjoyed being on the soccer team. That helped me find balance and make friends, but I would definitely tell myself to try and be more outgoing. At the beginning of high school, I was definitely very reserved and kept to myself. I remember the first day of freshman year I thought Edison High was huge. Everything was just so new and unfamiliar. I think that for the most part I had a pretty good experience at Edison High, and I wouldn’t change anything. I would just push myself to be more involved.
EE: How has the virtual environment impacted your experience as a college student and a nursing major for labs, etc.?
SM: I definitely think this goes with college in general, even when classes are in-person. I think it’s just harder to motivate yourself. One of the things that helped was staying organized and keeping a schedule for myself. It was challenging at first, but it’s possible—just have an open mind, keep good habits, and keep a schedule for yourself.
We would normally be in skills labs: taking blood pressures and listening to respirations, but the nursing faculty has been really awesome to be honest. We do our labs via Zoom. When I picked up my uniform, they also gave us our equipment, like my stethoscope. A lot of times they’ll have us watch a video before, and then walk us through what to do on camera. It’s been hard because we know it’s not the same. We all know that no nursing student right now can physically be in a lab.
EE: Now, with the current perspective you have, what would be your main piece of advice to current high schoolers, in general and specifically for those pursuing careers in nursing?
SM: When it comes to nursing majors specifically, one of my biggest suggestions is to take Anatomy and Physiology, AP Bio, or AP Chem senior year. It’ll really help set a foundation.
Have fun. Enjoy high school, but at the same time, make sure you’re doing what you need to do. You don’t have to be the best at everything. Just try and find what you like because a lot of times, once you get to college, it’s super intimidating and overwhelming, and you have a lot of friends who are unsure of their major, which is completely normal. Try to set good habits for yourself, but just have fun. Even though I’m just a sophomore in college, it seems like high school was such a long time ago.