By Maggie Roth
Gordon College News Service
February 16, 2010
After Jackie Eagan graduated from Arlington High in 2005, she knew she wanted to be a doctor. But before the 22-year-old lifelong resident of Arlington heads to medical school, she’s spending a gap year in the capital of Denmark.
“The first time I went to Copenhagen was in 2007 to study abroad during the fall semester of my junior year,” she said. “Then after I graduated I knew I only had a year to do something cool and living and working in Denmark was a productive option and an adventure.”
Eagan is unique, though, according to Dr. Lorrie Comeford, a chemistry professor at Salem State College, who said science majors rarely take classes in foreign countries.
“We haven't had a student from our department study abroad within my memory,” she said. “We do, however, have many international students who have completed part of their college work in their home countries and they are, for the most part, well prepared.”
Eagan, a 2009 University of Connecticut graduate who majored in physiology and neurobiology, has applied to a handful of medical schools in Massachusetts, including Tufts School of Medicine and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She recently flew back to the United States in February to interview at UMass and spent a few days with her family.
Her ultimate plan is to get accepted into one of the medical schools she has applied to and begin her schooling in the fall.
“Ideally, I will get in to one of them and then get a residency in Massachusetts,” Eagan said, “and spend the next few years enjoying living in New England.”
Initially Eagan, who has lived in her house on Gray Street since she was born (her parents still live there), decided that she wanted to study abroad a few years ago after getting close to a friend from Sweden. But she has had a passion for the sciences for much longer.
“Science has been my only focus since high school. It started in an intro biology class with a teacher who became my friend and mentor, Mr. Don Bockler,” said Eagan.
Eagan said Bockler, who recently passed away, was one of the best teachers she had at Arlington High School and he was the one who first inspired her interest in human physiology and biology. A job in the stem cell lab at UConn only deepened her passion.
After graduating from college, Eagan decided that she wanted to go back to Copenhagen so she applied for an internship at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS), where she had taken classes during her study abroad experience.
"The DIS had an amazing medical program and going to class was just like going to a medical school class in the States. It was much more hands on than any other class I had ever taken," Eagan said.
Her job entails planning study tours, setting up classes, creating syllabuses, advising students and working with doctors on a medical program—all as a part of her internship. For many, though, taking a gap year is not an option, and Eagan realizes that she is lucky to have the opportunity.
“I think it really gives me something to talk about to med schools, along with work experience, a chance to make a network with foreign doctors, and also an interesting twist to my application and life in general,” she said.
Although Eagan said that she has been adjusting well to the culture change and learning Danish, she still admits that it hasn’t been easy all the time. One of the biggest things that she misses during her time abroad is having her network of people and friends. But Eagan believes her time in Copenhagen has been beneficial and her experiences are not lost on those around her.
“Jackie's time abroad has made me think seriously about studying abroad myself,” said Maddie Eagan, Jackie’s younger sister and a sophomore at UConn. “Seeing how much she has enjoyed herself whether working or studying makes me realize that I can’t wait to have my own adventures abroad. She is an awesome person who will be a great doctor, no matter what kind.”