Christine Burke ’19 chose Randolph-Macon College for several reasons, including the college’s pre-health partnerships with top medical schools. Burke, a biology and French major with a minor in black studies, plans to combine her interests and pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon. Her ultimate goal is to work for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
Burke’s RMC experiences—from classes to student organizations to an internship—are helping her reach that goal. And, through the generosity of two scholarships, Burke is discovering the joy of studying abroad.
Scholarship Recipient + World Traveler
Thanks to Randolph-Macon’s Georgina Childs and Marcelle Prat de Jouvenel Scholarship, Burke spent the fall 2017 semester at the Université de Nice, where she took four classes: French Language; Civilization; Literature; Cinema; and Creative Writing. The scholarship, established by the late Hon. J. Rives Childs (RMC Class of 1912), gave Burke the opportunity to immerse herself in the French culture.
“What is most remarkable about living in another country is that you are learning the language all the time,” she says. “I heard and spoke French while on the bus and in the grocery store, not just in the classroom. This constant exposure tremendously improved my language skills.”
Burke recently learned that she is the recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which will fund her return to the Université de Nice in 2018, where she will spend the spring semester. She is one of nearly 1,000 American undergraduate students from 386 colleges and universities across the United States selected to receive the Gilman Scholarship to study or intern abroad during the 2017-2018 academic year.
“I am grateful for this scholarship, as studying abroad can be quite expensive without the proper resources,” says Burke, who will live on campus and take four classes a week, including an upper-level French-language course.
Aouicha Hilliard, director of International Education and Professor of French, says the Gilman Scholarship will allow Burke to reach the level of fluency necessary to make her more effective in her career.
“Such a far-reaching, long-term way of thinking bodes well for the impact she will have on societies in need,” says Hilliard. “What impresses me in Christine is her attitude. Just before her first study-abroad experience, the French Consulate lost her application for a visa, and Christine ended up missing her flight and missing the orientation for new students. But despite these hardships, she never complained; on the contrary, she kept marveling at the newness of her experience, her discoveries, her adventure. Christine illustrates for me the ideal traveler who, because of her openness, will gain the most from her experience.”
Burke, an active member the RMC community, serves on the Black Cultural Society; Diversity Council; French Society; and the Service Fellows. She is especially enthusiastic about her volunteer work at Gandy Elementary School’s afterschool program, Positive Action, where she helps students with homework, leads group activities and serves as a mentor.
“I always enjoy my time with the students, as it is fulfilling and fun,” says Burke. “During homework time, for example, I may help the children study for a test—and when they do well, it is a great feeling for both of us.”
Burke is thankful to all her professors—especially History Professor Alphine Jefferson.
“He is a challenging, but fair, instructor,” she explains. “His classes have taught me more about human societies than any other courses I have taken. His classes are set up so that students sit in a circle—that way we all see each other, and we know who is speaking. This makes it easier to share ideas. Thanks to Professor Jefferson, I have learned how to look at how the past has shaped the modern world. We talk about current events, social issues, languages—and although it may seem random, all the topics have some sort of connecting factor.”
From Internship to Future Plans
During January Term (J-term) 2017, Burke participated in an internship at Chippenham and Johnston-Willis Hospitals’ Wound Healing Center in Richmond, Virginia, where she shadowed a physician and his team.
“They taught me about the different types of wounds, their causes, and the innovative ways to treat them,” explains Burke. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time there because, although wound healing is not what I plan to pursue, it was beneficial to learn about another field that could be related to my medical career.”
Burke is busy setting her sights on medical school. Staff from The Edge, RMC’s four-year career program, helped her create a résumé, which she’ll include in her medical-school applications. She also credits the 2017 Boot Camp, sponsored by The Edge, in helping prepare her for the interview process. The two-day immersion program helps students identify their career passions, hone their interview skills, and identify their strengths and capabilities—all with the help of top-notch speakers and facilitators, including alumni.
“My dream school is George Washington University Medical School,” says Burke. “They have different focuses, including international medicine—exactly what I want to do during my career.”