A Conversation with Minerva Student Alina

Meet Alina, a student in the Class of 2025 | Nov 3, 2021

Quick Facts

Name
Alina Salman

Hometown
Karachi, Pakistan

Class
2025

Intended Major & Concentrations
Computational Science — Data Analysis
Social Sciences—Cognition


Conversation

Why did you choose to attend Minerva?
I felt too comfortable and, quite frankly, bored in the traditional education system. My entire school life had experienced lecture-based, theory-focused classes, and I did not feel like I was being adequately challenged within the classroom. Therefore, I chose to explore the “alternative” way of learning Minerva offers.

I was very methodical with my decision to attend Minerva. First, I wanted to spend the next four years in the thick of things, fully immersed in places where life happens. I could not imagine myself in an isolated, sheltered campus living my life in a bubble of comfort and familiarity. Minerva guaranteed living in the heart of a new city every semester. Second, I sought a culture of inclusivity and curiosity. With more than 80% of the class from outside the US, Minerva topped the charts in cultural heterogeneity, ensuring that I would truly belong in the institution instead of forming a part of a small diversity percentage. Third, I wanted to be in control of what and how I learned. Minerva’s amalgamation of individual active learning, integrated real-world experiences, and liberal arts curriculum meant I could do just that.

What do you like about Minerva's academics? How is this different from your high school experience?
I believe the current traditional education system is designed to leave no space for meaningful reflection. So much of what I learned in high school was built around a rigid syllabi structure that there was no time for students or teachers to be truly curious about the learning content. I believe such an environment punishes curiosity and promotes conformity.

At Minerva, I love how conversation easily flows during classes. Our professors give students the space and resources needed to be true to themselves, to actively speak what is on our minds, and to genuinely explore topics beyond the realms of textbooks. The result is an impeccable quality of discourse. The classes continue to leave me in awe of my classmates’ abilities and my professors’ accomplishments.

Tell us about the Cornerstone Curriculum.
The first year at Minerva is called the Foundation Year and every student takes the same four Cornerstone Courses throughout the year: Empirical Analyses, Multimodal Communications, Complex Systems, and Formal Analyses. Each one of these courses equips the students with the tools and techniques necessary to flourish in different walks of life by teaching students the “how” of learning instead of the “what”. The best thing about these courses is that they are broad and all-encompassing so you get to taste a little bit of everything before declaring your major. Topics of discussion within the classes of these courses range from the dynamics of power distribution to the science behind the flocking of birds to the question of fate and free will. Even though the content is highly organized and lucid, there is nothing off-limits, too obscure, or too niche to learn during your first year!

What is a problem you would like to address in the world?
I think very deeply about the intersection of science and society and the way science and technology exacerbate existing societal injustices. In particular, I would like to address what I call the “Inequality of Pain,” defined as the lack of representation of gender minorities from public health discourse, which results in neglect and misrepresentation of health problems that fundamentally affect gender minorities.

It never fails to amaze me how fundamentally patriarchal the world we live in is. In my opinion, everything from the safety features in automobiles to the research on womxn’s health problems, such as endometriosis, are crafted to benefit only the men of the society. Sexist ideals are deeply entrenched within the public health sector of many countries of the world, and I want to work towards mitigating the damage they leave in their wake.

What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Minerva community? How would you describe the community?
The connections! I know Minerva has a reputation for being a wildly extroverted community but as an introvert myself, I cannot help but marvel at how easy it is to connect with people here. Although we grew up halfway across the world from one another, do not speak each other’s native language, boast different beliefs, and nurse radically different opinions, somehow the friendships here are so meaningful and rewarding.

What would you tell another student who is considering Minerva?
Do things your future self would thank you for even if they seem daunting or impossible or unbelievable right now. A little courage and a little effort will go a long way. All you need to do is take the first step.

What are you looking forward to experiencing?
If I were to be specific, I would say I am looking forward to the growth this journey will bring me but the honest answer is I am looking forward to everything. I want to experience everything my Minerva journey has to offer — the good, the bad, the ugly. My college mantra is to let life happen to me and I am sticking with it for the next four years (at least!)

How did you get involved with EducationUSA?
I was nominated by my high school counselor to join Competitive College Club (CCC), a mentorship program by EducationUSA, which guides international students throughout the US college application process. We had monthly group activities and 1–1 meetings with our designated counselors, which proved to be quite fruitful during the intimidating process of choosing and applying to the right college.

What skills or lessons did you learn at EducationUSA that have been useful in your studies at Minerva?
Clarity of thought and confidence in choices. It is no secret that crafting your ideal college application is not easy. You have to express yourself in a limited space and put your best foot forward at every step. There is hardly any space for errors and all mistakes come with high stakes.

The mentors at EducationUSA really helped me achieve clarity of thought in terms of how I wanted to express myself. This, coupled with the right amount of confidence in my choices and abilities, have really helped me cope with the sudden intensity of life at Minerva. Clarity of thought allows me to be more organized, focused, and driven by mission.

What are some of the main similarities and differences between EducationUSA and Minerva?
I think both EducationUSA and Minerva promote plurality and multiplicity instead of conformity. My friends from my EducationUSA cohort also came from different backgrounds and my friends here in Minerva also hail from polar different cultures. I have had mentors in both institutions actively encourage me to keep an open mind and not limit myself. It is nice to see how some principles of both organizations overlap — it is certainly the reason why both were so rewarding to me in their own capacity.

What advice do you have for a prospective EducationUSA student about Minerva?
Be curious — about yourself, about the opportunities you have, about the world, about Minerva! The world is so much bigger than your high school classroom and your list of accomplishments. There is much more to you that you have not yet discovered. Do not hold yourself back on the basis of what you think you know about yourself. Keep asking questions. Keep pushing yourself and keep looking for opportunities that will let you do something you have never done before.


If you were inspired by Alina's story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world,
apply to join Minerva today.