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Student Spotlight: Nicole Bryer

The Ogden Honors junior talks about her international ambitions

There’s so much we can say about Ogden Honors College student Nicole Bryer. She’s majoring in biochemistry and microbiology and, in addition to helping conduct research on E.coli in a lab on campus, she volunteers her time at Baton Rouge General and as an Ogden Honors College Advocate. She has a love for travel and a heart for service, which she hopes to eventually combine with a career in medicine. Last summer, she helped build a dam and dig a water line in Thailand and this summer, she’ll get first-hand clinical experience shadowing doctors in Vietnam.

You grew up in a multilingual household. Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

My father is American, and my mother is originally from the Philippines.  Both of my parents are very proud of their heritages, so I grew up hearing stories of the traditions in each of their families. My father’s native language is English, but he grew up listening to his parents speaking French and his uncle telling him old family stories in Gaelic. Having been born in the Philippines, my mother’s native language is Tagalog, but she grew up listening to her parents and grandparents speaking Japanese, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish. My parents wanted me to speak multiple languages like they could, so English was not heavily spoken in my household. My first language is Tagalog and it is still the primary language spoken in my household. My dad would speak to me in French and my uncle would tell me the same old family stories in Gaelic like he told my dad. When I started to show a genuine interest in travel and the places I was traveling, they promoted learning the local language. When I decided to go to South Korea, I taught myself Korean through independent study and my mom practicing with me.

Where did you get your love of travel?

Both of my parents traveled extensively throughout their lives starting when they were both very young. When I was young, we spent quite a bit of time going home to visit my mother’s childhood home in the Philippines. While there, we were able to go to places like Hong Kong and Japan with a short boat ride or flight. My grandparents would take me on trips to Europe, South America, and Northern Africa. Experiencing new surroundings, eating new foods, and meeting new people from the different places I travel still excites me in the same way it did for me as a kid. 

You’ve been able to incorporate your love for travel into your education. Tell us about it!

Since I started college I really wanted to continue traveling, but I didn’t just want to go for recreational purposes; I wanted to be able to take part in the communities I was visiting. I volunteered in Thailand last summer and while I was there I was able to help local farmers tend to their land to get ready for the planting season, build a dam with the local Karen villagers, spend time with elephants at an elephant sanctuary, teach local kids how to play basketball, and dig a water line through s series of hills for the school to get fresh water. Even though I was doing hard work, it was amazing to get to know the local people and be immersed in their unique culture. This summer, I am going to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to shadow doctors and nurses in a local clinic and help in any capacity that I can. I want to go to medical school eventually, so this is giving me the opportunity to attain first-hand clinical experience and immerse myself in a completely new culture at the same time.

Why did you choose LSU, and what drew you to the Ogden Honors College? 

Honestly, LSU was not my first choice.  I am from Metairie, which is right outside of New Orleans and had originally planned on going to a school farther away.  When I attended LSU’s Spring Invitational Program (SPIN), I got to experience the campus firsthand. LSU also gave me scholarships to pay for school. So that combined with my good experience at SPIN made my decision to attend LSU easy.

How has being in the Ogden Honors College enhanced your LSU experience?

The Ogden Honors College has enhanced my LSU experience from day one. My freshman year RA was a member of the Honors college and an Honors College Advocate. She helped me through my tough classes and also introduced me to the Honors College Advocates, an organization I am still a part of. When I decided to start volunteering abroad, the Ogden Honors College staff always showed genuine excitement and interest in where I was going and what I was doing, which really gave me the courage to follow through with my plans and travel alone to Thailand to volunteer. The Ogden Honors College staff has been there to encourage me, give me perspective, and even just be there to listen through most of my college decisions.

What has been your favorite experience at LSU?

My favorite experience at LSU has been being a Team Leader for Community Bound before my sophomore year. That year, we went to New Orleans because it was the 10-year anniversary since Katrina. It meant a lot to me that the LSU community that I had become a part of was going to go and help rebuild the community that I was raised in. Some of the other students in my group were also from New Orleans and we shared stories of how Katrina affected us and what this project meant to us. It was very rewarding to help out and it is one of the most memorable things I have done while at LSU.

What do you plan to do after you graduate?

After graduation, I plan on traveling back home to the Philippines to spend time with my mother’s family and maybe spend some time traveling through Southeast Asia. I plan on going to medical school and, hopefully, become a pediatric surgeon. One day, I hope to work with an international organization to bring medicine to under-developed areas or possibly practicing medicine in my mother’s hometown in the Philippines.