Meet Henry Hoffman, BFS Class of '20!

 

Henry Hoffman, COL ’20, Biology

What was the last book you read? 

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. I highly recommend it! 

What was your involvement in the Benjamin Franklin Scholars program at Penn? 

I participated in the Integrated Studies Program as a freshman, where I made some lifelong friends and started to narrow in on my career interests. I joined the Benjamin Franklin Scholars Board during my sophomore year, and served as Board President during my junior year. I loved being in an environment where there was always something new to learn from my peers, and the BFS Seminars I participated in were among the best courses I took as an undergraduate. 

What have you done since you graduated from Penn? 

After graduating last May, I moved to Madrid, Spain to complete a Fulbright English Teaching Grant. I work at the Universidad Camilo José Cela, a private university to the northwest of the city center. I teach a number of classes ranging from workplace and professional English, to bilingual courses on Criminology and Justice. I also conduct Biomedical research, and run a professional club that offers interview and resume support to students who are applying to jobs in English-speaking countries. 

I had always planned to take a couple of gap years before applying to Medical School, and to ideally spend them abroad. While it has been strange to move to Madrid in the middle of a pandemic, I feel grateful for a chance to grow and pursue my goal of Spanish fluency in such uncertain times. It has been wonderful to immerse myself in a new community, to explore its art museums, parks, and neighborhoods, to engage with a new system of education, and to make countless new friends. While both teaching and fully experiencing a new city can be tricky in a pandemic, this experience has encouraged me to tap into my creative side, remain positive, and become comfortable with improvisation. 

I’ve only been in Madrid for a short while, but I already know I made the right choice coming here. The interpersonal skills I develop in the classroom, as well as the independence and language skills that come naturally with living abroad will serve me well as both a Doctor and a person in the future. 

What are your professional goals for the future? 

In the future I plan to attend Medical School. As an undergraduate, I volunteered regularly at a Spanish-language clinic and currently am on a Fulbright Grant in Madrid, Spain; I hope to use the language skills I’ve developed through these experiences to provide accessible, bilingual care as a Doctor. 

How has the Benjamin Franklin Scholars program contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development? 

I came into college incredibly undecided, and eager to explore a number of new subjects. The BFS program was a perfect fit for me; it encouraged me to take classes I would have never considered and showed me that seemingly unrelated topics can offer insight into one another as long as you seek out the connections. Even after declaring my Biology major and committing to a premedical course load, I continued to take courses in Classics, Philosophy, and Music, and was even able to publish my own History research. These courses shaped me into a more well-rounded thinker, and offered me a fresh perspective that I’ve applied to my science seminars and my Immunology Research at Penn, and will carry with me into my career in Medicine in the future. 

What advice would you give to current Benjamin Franklin Scholars? 

Almost nobody knows what they want to do for the rest of their life when they’re 18. At Penn, it can feel like you need to make these career decisions immediately or you’ll fall too far behind to ever catch up, but this isn’t true. Relish in not having things figured out; while it can seem scary, it can also be very freeing. Embrace flexibility, and use it to find opportunities that speak to you and push you outside of your comfort zone. There’s no rush to have it all figured out.