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May 02, 2017

From wallflower to president of student government

One student’s inspiring journey at Rutgers University-Camden

Education College

Content sponsored by RutgersNativeBadge2017

Parth Lalakia Rutgers We Know How Rutgers University-Camden/for PhillyVoice

Parth Lalakia is graduating this spring from Rutgers University-Camden.

Parth Lalakia is graduating this spring as president of Rutgers University-Camden’s Student Government Association, an RA, the founder of Rutgers-Camden’s Phi Mu Delta chapter, an orientation leader, researcher and civic scholar. He hails from India and is majoring in biology, with minors in chemistry and philosophy.

But Lalakia arrived at Rutgers-Camden in 2013 as a homesick introvert with a thick accent; he didn’t know how to format an email or what it meant to write a paper in “Chicago” or “AP” styles.

“I wanted to become a doctor in America, but I underestimated myself. I thought, ‘I’m never going to get into med school — people can’t even understand me.’”

After his sophomore year, he challenged himself to stray from his comfort zone. With the support of his friends, his professors and Rutgers University-Camden’s tight-knit community, he was able to hone his voice and truly thrive.

“The main reason I came here is because I wanted a small campus. I wanted someone to know me by my name and have a presence on campus; it became a home away from home. I call it a small campus with a big heart.”

He conveys that being a student in the Honors College at Rutgers-Camden has also provided him with close advisers and classmates who know and support his academic goals.

Lalakia is especially close with a professor with whom he has researched fungus and circadian rhythm for the past two and a half years. He spoke warmly about their relationship, saying, “We talk to each other like friends, we joke around, and he’s guiding me through the process of applying to med school. He’s also an immigrant and knows all about my family back in India.”

Working at this lab allowed him to publish a paper as an undergrad, which is a significant milestone for a student pursuing medicine. Additionally, it gave Lalakia hands-on research experience, which helped him land an internship for two summers at Cooper Medical School.

Lalakia remarked on his internship, sharing, “I got to work on cadavers and with faculty. Because of my internship, they labeled me as a high-preference candidate on my application there for med school.”

One aspect of Rutgers-Camden that resonates with him is the importance of becoming involved in one’s community. He has developed this value through being a civic scholar – a role where students participate in learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom, leadership development and hands-on service. Part of their requirement is fulfilling 300 hours of community service a year, taking the “Civic Engagement English” course and planning the university’s service events.

He also spoke of Rutgers-Camden’s altruistic community, humbly expressing that he’s surrounded by “a great group of people who helped me without asking for anything in return.”

For students who are on the fence about choosing Rutgers University-Camden, he suggested that they come and talk to the students, listen to their stories and observe the dynamic of a small campus.

Lalakia's experience shows that if one relentlessly pursues their passions, everything will work out. As the Student Government Association president, he is now inspiring the same attitude in freshmen who might feel as he once did.