A new place, a new start
I was 5-years-old at the time and barely tall enough to see out the window of the taxi, but looking upwards, I could catch the sun streaking through the lower Manhattan skyline. By propping myself up on the arm rest, I could marvel at the sights around me. Crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge and entering Manhattan, I saw people of all nationalities flooding the streets and the sound of honking horns filled my ears. I leaned back into the car and squeezed my mother’s hand tightly. She looked down at me with a warm smile. This is my first memory of the United States of America.
My parents, younger brother, and I immigrated from Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, to New York, NY, in pursuit of the American Dream on September 30, 2000. My father won a U.S. Green Card through the Diversity Visa Lottery. The lottery is designed to make Green Cards—permanent resident cards—available to people from underrepresented countries every year. Winners and their families are authorized to live, study, and work in the United States as permanent residents.
As a child at the time, I didn’t grasp how crucial our move would be to my story: a new place and a new start.
Giving and growing
Two years after those first steps on American soil, my parents found jobs in Indiana and our family moved to the Midwest. I began second grade in a new school system looking for friends and navigating a whole new language. I vividly recall the endless flashcards my teachers used to help me learn basic English. I remember the long hours struggling to put sentences together and the hardships my family faced trying to communicate in English for even the simplest things like groceries. My parents were strong and gradually acclimated to a new culture. I continue to thank them for exemplifying the importance of fighting for your dreams and our move to the United States is one of the biggest reasons I seek to challenge myself daily.
With only a semester of classes to go followed by a year of rotations at the Purdue University College of Pharmacy, I am overcome with gratitude for the incredible opportunities that have been awarded to me over the past few years. Being around people that bring their best encourages and inspires me to learn as much as possible. Some of my most memorable experiences on campus include serving as the Director of Programming for the Panhellenic Association, being a resident assistant, serving as the Executive President of Old Masters, and being a member of the Barbara Cook Chapter of Mortar Board.
In addition to these activities, I have found ways to constantly challenge myself within the pharmacy world. I currently serve as Co-Director for the Local Pharmacy and Therapeutics Competition through Purdue’s Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy Chapter. I am also a member of APhA–ASP, the Alpha Rho Chapter of Phi Lambda Sigma, and serve as Director of the Employer Relations Committee for Purdue Pharmacy Ambassadors. These opportunities have allowed me to teach, learn, and share success with my pharmacy school peers and the surrounding community.
As a pharmacy intern at Walgreens, my most rewarding days are when I find myself educating patients about their medications and enabling them to make positive changes in their lives. I bring optimism into all interactions with patients and I enjoy encouraging those around me to reach their full potential.
Remembering my roots
As I now seek to encourage and mentor student pharmacists, I know I would not be in this position if it weren’t for the handful of mentors that first invested in me. I remember one of these individuals sitting me down in their office to encourage me to apply for The Johns Hopkins Pharmacy Internship program in Baltimore, MD. Several months after that conversation, I stepped foot inside The Johns Hopkins Hospital for the first time and seized a summer of opportunities alongside 20 other student pharmacist leaders from all over the country.
From these experiences, I am reminded daily of the sacrifices that my parents selflessly made for my family. I cannot thank them enough for the opportunities I have been blessed with and how they have inspired my story. I remember the sense of wonder and excitement that I felt when marveling at the bright orange Manhattan skyline for the first time, and I strive to bring that perspective to every chapter of my story. A new place and a new start.
Olga Vlashyn, PharmD, is a third-year PharmD candidate at the Purdue University College of Pharmacy.