Meet Jeffrey!

Hello dear friends!

I am incredibly excited to be writing for all of you throughout the upcoming year as the current Roger M. Jones fellow. This post is currently being written from Chicago, my pre-departure city! Sadly, I had to leave my hometown (Midland, MI) behind yesterday with my life neatly packed away into two suitcases. I found it interesting, really, how much packing can teach about one’s personality, life, and habits.

Realizing that last sentence, I figured that this post could serve two purposes: 1. To get to know me, of course! 2. To learn a little bit about what a 22-year-old about to make a big life change and go overseas decides is important to keep in his life (at least materially). What’s even better is that through describing point 2, point 1 will undoubtedly be reached as well, because what we pack in our suitcases is so telling of who we are!

Onward, then… To keep things short and digest-able, I’ll share three items that I packed.

*First thing’s first*

– the U-M Engineering Alumni t-shirt –

Naturally, anyone who has been awarded this fellowship has an undergraduate degree in engineering, but why did I study engineering? In short, I chose biomedical engineering for multiple reasons, many having changed and many having remained the same since I started four years ago at U-M. One reasoning upon entering: I wanted to have a major that would guide me towards medicine and health but wouldn’t necessarily pigeonhole me into one field – engineering would give me options, and biomedical engineering was the most interesting to me. One reasoning upon leaving: Biomedical engineering, as an inherently interdisciplinary field, has taught me how to learn quickly and deeply about any topic I face. I have learned that the engineering approach can be applied to problems that are not founded necessarily in engineering (i.e. in public policy or public health). The bottom line regarding the t-shirt is that I couldn’t help but keep a little reminder of why I’m here to study the PPE of Health at University College London.

*Did someone hear some music off in the distance?*

– the alto saxophone and mini MIDI keyboard –

Equally important to my life as my major was my minor – music. Originally upon entering the U, I was enrolled in the School of Music and the College of Engineering as a dual-degree seeking student, in classical saxophone performance and engineering. However, I decided that I didn’t want to spend an extra year (at minimum) slaving over my degrees and not experiencing much of an extra-curricular life. Whether or not that assumption was true, I ended up switching to a music minor and focusing more on jazz and composition. I took with me two pieces of music: the Glazunov Saxophone Concerto and the Fuzzy Bird Sonata. The first piece is one of my favorite (albeit slightly cliché) pieces of classical music to play, and the second is a uniquely difficult piece of contemporary saxophone music that I still have yet to master. Despite what kind of music I decide to bring to or play in London, you will surely be hearing of where I play, what I listen to, and what I write. Usually when I experience something that truly highlights the human condition, I like to channel any feelings I experience into composing some music (usually with the MIDI keyboard). I’ve been told that the music scene (especially jazz) in London is wild, so fingers crossed for some original jazz and other musical experiences!

*Did someone say tea?*

– the coffee brewing equipment –

Anyone who has seen my Instagram profile (subtitled “barista for the masses”) knows of my fondness for coffee. (Stay tuned for my thoughts on tea as I spend more time in the UK.) I have worked as a barista in the specialty coffee industry for two years and three months, and only recently did I have to reluctantly put in my final two weeks at Black Diesel Coffee in Ann Arbor, MI.  Surely, a future blog post will be dedicated to the coffee scene in London, so I won’t bore you with too much coffee-speak. I see coffee in my life as spurring community gathering, connection between people, and communication between global stakeholders. Coffee is not just a drink for me, rather it is this beautiful, naturally-occurring enigma that has the potential to light up one’s eyes and mind with each drink that is created. Speaking outside of the drink itself, my experience working with people (customers and coworkers alike), has been nothing short of outstanding. I have met some of my closest friends over coffee, and the drink (in my mind) undoubtedly had something to do with this connection.

As I look to the bottom of the page here, it seems that I have managed to type about 800 words at this point, so I had better wrap up this intro. In five short sentences, I will give a flash of other parts of my life, and then conclude with a sort of “send off” for the rest of the blog. Here goes…

I love running and cycling, and enjoy keeping physically fit. Reading is an ultimate pleasure for me (see, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, David Foster Wallace, John Irving, Norton Juster, and T.S. Eliot). I consider myself a part of the amusingly fun group of cyclists classified under “fixie riders”. I have an amateur fascination with religion, theology, and spirituality, much of which has manifested through (but is not by any means limited to) the Jesuit order within the Catholic church. I might still want to go to medical school, but possibly go into doctoral work in the social sciences (and possibly combine the two). My time working in Haiti and the Dominican Republic with public health and policy matters has in-part spurred my reasoning behind applying for this fellowship.

In conclusion, I will leave you with some paraphrased words of what I said at the end of my interview for this fellowship. This transition in to the humanities is not a diversion, not a side-path in my life, but a necessary and logical step. It makes sense for me to go study philosophy, so I have the mental rigor to process situations in public health, similar to the healthcare inequities that I experienced in Haiti and the DR.

From Ann Arbor to London, I cannot wait to be an ambassador for U-M’s College of Engineering at University College London. Here’s to the experience of a lifetime (and being able to document this time for all of you).

Next stop, Iceland! (Cliffhanger for the next post).

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