The Best Four Years of My Life

Faculty guidance, alumni connections, global internships, national conferences, and service trips provided transformational experiences that prepared Shane Fuentes '18 for a top med school — and a Fulbright year in Asia.

by Shane Fuentes

Shane Fuentes in Taiwan
Shane Fuentes, lab

I’m from Brasher Falls, a very small town in New York’s North Country. My father has been a factory worker at General Motors for the last 40 years, and my mother is a case manager for our county. Both of my parents are the children of migrants who moved from Puerto Rico to the continental U.S. many years ago. Each of them has always stressed education above all else. The high school I attended was actually ranked as the worst high school in St. Lawrence County and was in the bottom 30% of high schools in the State of New York. I had no opportunity to take AP or IB classes and was surrounded by teachers who were satisfied with teaching adequacy rather than mastery (my physics teacher literally said this). For reference, I graduated as salutatorian of my class but only managed to score in the 49th percentile on the SAT. Needless to say, I was nervous about college — Will I be able to handle the work? How far ahead of me are my peers going to be? Will I be able to succeed?

Initially, I was in the physical therapy program. I was quickly infatuated with the biology course I was taking, taught by a remarkable adjunct, and decided that I needed to change departments. I found myself gravitating toward the chemistry and math departments as the semesters passed. Every faculty member I interacted with was willing to share their story and provide (perhaps unknowingly) advice that would shape me during my time at the institution. Those same faculty members went above and beyond to give me research opportunities, alumni connections, and countless hours of extra help.

Those same faculty members were there for nonacademic needs, too. Every student goes through moments of struggle. The faculty I regularly interacted with from various departments, not just those within the walls of Peckham, listened to students, reaffirmed and encouraged them, and followed up to make sure the student was okay. That is the sort of intangible thing that makes the Nazareth Experience so special.

Outside of the classroom, I was involved in a wide variety of clubs. I traveled a bit of the world for internships, presenting research at national conferences, study abroad, and service trips—all of which were things that I never imagined doing. My exposure to other cultures was not limited to crossing borders. My worldliness expanded right on campus through the Conversation Partners program and other events with the international student population. One student I met during my freshman year even invited me to his home in Italy when I was traveling home from studying abroad in Berlin this past fall. My few days spent with him and his family are something that I will always deeply treasure.

In my Commencement speech, I stated that “my time at Nazareth proved to be the best four years of my life.” That was not a hyperbole. It was the absolute truth. The institution is a place where students can go, find themselves, grow to their full potential, and be happy doing so. If you would have told me that I was going to be attending medical school at the University of Rochester (the 11th best medical school in the nation according to Harvard’s latest ranking, which is based on feats that go beyond grant funding) and that I would live in Asia for a year on a Fulbright Scholarship, I would have said you were crazy. Nazareth is an incredibly special place, and every student is so lucky to attend. Any student willing to involve themselves on this campus has a promising college experience ahead of them.

For me, the College was a perfect stepping stone. I came into college as an average student and left having accomplished unimagined dreams. I went from scoring below the 50th percentile on the SAT to scoring in the 80th percentile on the MCAT. I learned what it took to succeed academically. I’m incredibly proud and thankful to be an alumni of an institution that allows students like me to find themselves and their potential through opportunity and experience.

Fuentes was the undergraduate speaker at graduation in May 2018.

Shane Fuentes, Taiwan

A Year in Taiwan

Before going to medical school at the University of Rochester, Shane Fuentes is spending a year teaching English in Taiwan through the Fulbright grant program. He’s hiked Teapot Mountain, visited an 800-year old Buddhist temple run by female monks, attended Daniel Pearl World Music Day, mistakenly wound up in a “barbershop” (brothel), experienced traditional Chinese medicine — and was even asked to arm wrestle the Chinese doctor.

Read Shane’s blog about his Fulbright experience »

His Proudest Moment

    Hear Fuentes at Commencement