Student Profile: Ilaha Jalilova

M.S., Physician Assistant Studies
Year Expected to Graduate
Long Island
Shamkir, Azerbaijan
Student Profile: Ilaha Jalilova

Future PA Inspires Fellow Students

Ilaha Jalilova, a student ambassador and international student from Azerbaijan enrolled in the life sciences, B.S./physician assistant (PA) studies M.S. program, won a $5,000 scholarship from HelloCampus, an organization that connects prospective students with schools. The scholarship program celebrates the storytelling skills of campus tour guides based on their originality in speech, ability to evoke emotion, and clarity in presentation. Jalilova’s video, which touts New York Tech’s safe campus environments, student diversity, and supportive faculty and staff, was one of two winners chosen.

In addition to her award-winning video, Jalilova, who received her bachelor’s in life sciences in 2021, has launched her own YouTube channel, where she shares her knowledge of life sciences and PA-related topics. She sat down with The Box to talk about her journey from the Caucuses to the United States, New York Tech experiences, and career aspirations.

Why did you choose New York Tech?
Initially, when looking at the website, I could see the straight facts and one very important one—graduates of the PA program at New York Tech have a 100 percent pass rate for their license exam. The beautiful campus in every season makes me want to go to campus even during breaks. The campus staff is very friendly, and they will be there whenever you need any help. Everyone cares about the students, and this is very important for me as an international student.

How did you decide on your major?
At first, I didn’t know about the PA profession in detail when I moved to New York. But exploring the profession, I figured it is the best for my future career goals. PAs are very flexible and have an opportunity to explore so many other fields and interests.

Is there a project for which you are particularly proud?
As you might know, the PA profession is a growing field, and it is sometimes hard to find the information you are looking for. I decided to create a platform where I can share my knowledge and experience with others. It is named PA Pearls. Even though I am going to be sharing the PA perspective, the platform is designed to help everyone in the medical field.

While enrolled in the life sciences program did you get to work on any interesting projects with your professors?
I was very lucky to work on two research opportunities during my undergraduate with two of my professors. After the microbiology course, I was mesmerized by phages. Therefore, I decided to research with Assistant Professor of Biological and Chemical Sciences Bryan Gibb, Ph.D. At the same time, I helped Professor Claude Gagna, Ph.D., with his research on melanoma and the eye lens. I learned a lot of things outside of my curriculum from those experiences and I encourage every student to take part in research.

You’re also a peer advisor and student ambassador. Can you tell us what you love most about your roles?
When I talk about New York Tech, I share my true experience and try to be very personable. Meeting new people and being able to have an impact on their life is one of the best parts about being a student ambassador.

Tell us about how you first came to the United States. What was that experience like?
I came to the United States on August 19, 2017, when I also started my education at New York Tech. At first, everything was very different than what I expected. Everyone was giving me advice on certain areas of the state, certain people, but I didn’t listen to the majority and never regretted that. I experienced it myself and my way, which turned around to be the best for me!

What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of your academic journey?
My first year was very tough. I always had thoughts about my future, and they were not good. I thought, ‘I can’t keep my education or just keep going on anymore.’ Being a very good student all your life and then suddenly experiencing a failure was not acceptable for me. I faced a lot of feelings at the same time: failure, doubting myself, maybe even depression. Overcoming this was a process, and it took some time. It didn’t happen in a day.

What would you suggest to others who may be facing similar challenges?
I would suggest talking to someone, sharing your thoughts, convince yourself it is only another hill, not a mountain. Look at your surroundings, and I am sure you will find something to be grateful for. Remind yourself of your goals, the reasons why you even started.