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Near Eastern Studies

Suzanne T. Sprague ’04

M.D. Candidate, Tufts University School of Medicine

I chose to study in the Department of Near Eastern Studies for two reasons: First, the department was small and supportive. It offered accessible, brilliant faculty who were eager to teach and advise undergraduate students.

Second, by narrowing the geographic focus of my studies, I was able to broaden my areas of investigation: art and architecture, politics, ancient and modern history, literature, and religion—by choosing a Near Eastern studies major, I continued to learn within all of the areas of a liberal arts education. More than that, I was thrown into a world and language previously unknown to me—Turkish (Turkce!). By studying the language and arts and history of Turkey and the Middle East broadly in my coursework, and more narrowly in my independent research during my junior and senior years, I gained a scholarly and intellectual confidence that I do not believe I would have otherwise obtained.

After graduating from Princeton, I worked for a small financial consulting firm in New York City. In this job, I realized that I missed the intellectual excitement and rigor of Princeton, and wanted to find a career where I would be equally as challenged. 

Adapting to change and challenges

After considering a number of possibilities, and volunteering at an AIDS hospice, I decided to return to school and complete a premedical postbaccalaureate program. It was grueling to be back in school, but my undergraduate studies had prepared me for the flexibility and dedication that biology and organic chemistry required. After a year of intense science coursework, I applied to medical school, and was accepted at Tufts University School of Medicine. I am now a (almost!) fourth-year student. 

While I have never been a morning person, I am perpetually delighted to drive into the hospital every morning before dawn, anticipating the challenge and excitement that each day in medicine brings.

Medicine, particularly early in one’s career, requires tremendous intellectual flexibility and rapid synthesis of previously unknown information. As a student, it involves learning a new language and culture. My major in Near Eastern studies prepared me for the discomfort and excitement of being immersed in an unknown environment and vernacular. I find myself adaptable and comfortable in the hospital, whether it is talking to a patient at the bedside about their heart failure, or giving a lunchtime presentation on an obscure medical topic to a room of physicians. These skills and this flexibility originated in my studies at Princeton.