Neha Chava

As a U-M student, Neha Chava (B.S. ‘22, Comparative Literature and Biology, Health, and Society) completed a variety of French courses in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, as she focused on French and English as her languages of study within her Comparative Literature major.

Neha, who began studying French in seventh grade, said she found her French courses in high school and in RLL to be “a very encouraging place to make mistakes,” and noted that the smaller class sizes were beneficial to her learning, as she felt more comfortable to participate in class discussions.

Neha said the French 235 Advanced Practice in French: Sociopolitical and Multicultural Issues course she took sparked her interest in learning more about inclusivity and in deepening her cultural awareness, as she and her classmates studied topics including violence toward women and LGBTQIA+ rights in France.

“I appreciate all the tools my French classes gave me to inquire about other cultures,” she remarked.

During the semester she took French 274 Humor, Satire, and Islam(ophobia) in France with Prof. Adi Saleem Bharat, Neha was conducting research for a paper she was co-writing with a friend at another university looking at how communities of color in the U.S. are impacted by the justice system, and studying how restorative justice practices may be beneficial in some cases of gender-based violence.

Neha said she regularly consulted with Prof. Adi Saleem Bharat about qualitative research practices and about the project in general.

“Professor Bharat was such an amazing mentor for us throughout the project and provided very insightful feedback,” Neha remarked.

Neha and her co-author presented the abstract of their paper at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, which was held via Zoom, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, currently a second-year medical student at Wayne State University, Neha said she continues to find that the skills she gained through her French courses in RLL helps her connect with patients.

“It’s the intangible skills I learned that are so important to me both professionally and personally,” Neha said. “Being empathetic to people of different cultures, having curiosity and understanding, and being able to communicate with people I’ve just met.”

Neha said improving disparities in health care is something she is focused on in her work and in her studies. She said she’s been learning a great deal about this through her work with communities in Detroit.

“I find a new appreciation for the field every day,” she said. “Every day I’m in med school, I learn more about the people and communities around me.”