South Brunswick, NJ
Reema Khanchandani ’11 identifies herself as a dancer, a dancer who loves science. When she began college search, she knew she wanted a school that was big on both. These criteria considerably narrowed the pool of schools that had strong programs in both disciplines.
Goucher clearly stood out, and Khanchandani says “the first time I ever stepped foot on campus, I told my mom that this was the school I wanted to go to.”
She felt so sure of her decision, in fact, that she was planning on forgoing her senior year of high school to attend Goucher a year early. Though Khanchandani says her family has never pressured her to do anything, she did take their advice to complete her final year of high school to take more AP classes and to open up more scholarship possibilities.
But as is often the case with first-year students, Khanchandani had some reservations about whether she had made the right choice in her college search. It was the rigor of a chemistry class with Dr. Esther Gibbs that convinced Khanchandani that Goucher was indeed the place for her.
Since then, she has continued to grow to appreciate the academic intensity, small class settings, individualized attention, and mentoring opportunities that are part of her coursework in the sciences.
“The sciences are really outstanding at Goucher, and for a small liberal arts school, that’s really difficult,” she says.
Khanchandani has become thoroughly enmeshed in scientific scholarship, research, and mentoring at Goucher. She has declared a biology major, and in addition to her regular classes and labs, she has spent several semesters doing biochemical research with Dr. Judy Levin, associate professor of biological sciences and chemistry.
Although she decided against pursing a chemistry minor, Khanchandani has served that department as a facilitator who leads weekly workshops to help guide first-year students through problem sets, and she worked one semester as a supplemental instructor for organic chemistry. She especially loved the latter job, but with her classes and yet another job in Institutional Research, she felt too overloaded to continue in that capacity this semester.
Khanchandani has been able to counterbalance the time she spends learning and earning money with outside activities, such as in dance and environmental awareness activities. She says she almost feels sorry for her friends at other schools who “go to class, study, and work, and that’s it.” For Khanchandani, extracurricular activities make her life more meaningful. “My life isn’t just about studying. It’s also about the extracurriculars … and that’s really important to me.”
She feels lucky that “if you want to do something at Goucher, you can do it. There are a lot of people who willing to help you if you put effort in to it.” For example, Khanchandani helped co-found the Green House, a group of about 15 dorm residents who have agreed to live as sustainably as they can and to help make environmental awareness a bigger part of student life on campus.
Although dance previously “had been a little bit on the back burner,” Khanchandani has a less frenetic schedule this semester and is happy that she will be able to make dance a bigger priority. She has several academic dance classes on her schedule, and she plans to perform in some on-campus recitals and other projects.
Khanchandani did have the chance this past summer to participate in an intensive course abroad to study dance to Brazil. She and the other students spent three weeks in Rio de Janeiro to learn about the history and performance of dance, including trying on Carnival costumes and visiting the Sambadrome, where samba schools parade competitively each year during Carnival. “It was the best time of my entire life. I had so much fun and learned so much,” Khanchandani says.
Next semester she plans to study abroad again, in either Denmark or New Zealand. She is leaning toward New Zealand because there are at least eight science classes that she wants to take at the program’s university, and “it’s also farther from home, and it’ll be interesting to see how I’ll deal with that,” she says.
After graduation, Khanchandani wants to take off a year to join Americorps and then go back to grad school for either biology or environmental science. She plans to work in the field and then go into teaching, hopefully at a place like Goucher, she says.