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UTC Junior Secures Harvard Medical Research Internship

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo


Despite her challenging youth, Bahar Folad found ways to bring balance and healing into her life. Now, after she followed her passion for meditation and yoga, her upcoming summer will be spent studying alongside and shadowing prestigious researchers at Harvard University. 


At the university, she’ll explore the health effects of meditation and yoga, but off-campus, she plans to leave her provided sublet, explore the city and create social media content. For a biology major with future medical aspirations, Folad’s internship opportunity is career-making, and it came from an unlikely place.


“So I attend these meditation yoga retreats where it's just very focused on like self-growth and healing and just feeling a lot of peace, and I had just run into this woman,” Folad recalled her first meeting with a representative from Harvard. “We were just talking and I was telling her that I was a pre-med student and I love medicine, but I also love meditation and yoga and using that as a form of medicine as well.”


According to Folad, the meeting led to her writing blogs and creating posts for six to seven months as part of the researchers’ social media outreach. She stayed quiet about her involvement with Harvard University until Feb. 27, when she announced the medical research internship on social media.


Folad explained that despite Harvard’s prestigious reputation, she’s most excited to learn more about one of her lifelong interests: self-care. Growing up in a small, predominately white county, self-care was one of Folad’s few refuges from racism in school and abuse at home.


“I would say, if you hear my life story, it would be really difficult to hear,” Folad said. “So I'm kind of trying to pick up the pieces of a broken family and a broken culture, along with the pieces of like the racism that I had experienced and just like, create something and show that I'm not my past.”


Since the age of 15, she’s followed her mother’s love of meditation and yoga, which have helped her heal from past traumas. She kept the tradition alive throughout her life at UTC, eventually leading to meeting a researcher from Harvard.


“It was something that I had to hold on to because it just made me feel so clear and like, balanced in a way,” she said about meditation and yoga. “So I just know if I take care of myself, my outer world would be taken care of.”


With help from one of her mentors, Dr. Mukta Panda, Folad realized self-doubt and comparison only created negative emotions within her, and that even though she felt unworthy of an internship at Harvard, such feelings diminish the work she’s accomplished.


“At the end of the day, I can look back and I can thank those people who did say all those hurtful things to me because I did have to start loving myself in order to understand that what they were saying wasn't a reflection of me,” Folad summarized. “It was a reflection of themselves.”


In her initial announcement post, she outlined several of her supporters who encouraged her throughout her life, particularly her mother, who Folad talks to daily. Throughout the hardships at home, Folad explained, her mom supported her.


“Though I was overjoyed to learn that Bahar is going to Harvard this summer for internship, I was not surprised,” Folad’s mother, Masooda Folad, wrote. “Bahar’s unwavering self-discipline and strong work ethics paved the way for her…”


Meanwhile, Folad’s personal relationships, like with her friend Sivani Patel, and growing social media presence further her career as a role-model influencer. Folad doesn’t plan to stop posting, as she hopes she can connect with a modeling agency in New York.


“Bahar is one of the most hardworking people I’ve ever met… which is why I look up to her so much,” her friend Patel said.


In addition to her prestigious internship, Folad created her own brand and does promotional marketing on social media for several companies. She earned enough funds from content creation to finance part of her upcoming stay in Cambridge, as the internship program will be covering her expenses.

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