Meet Elena Sanchez de Varona, AG23

School: Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Degree: Master’s in Child Studies and Human Development

Home: Wherever the people who make me feel like the best version of myself are

What’s been the focus of your studies at Tufts?

I’m in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, and my focus is on hospitalized children, mainly children with chronic illness. I’ve taken classes in pediatric psychology, child life, children in hospitals, and developmental psychology, and currently I’m interning at Boston Children’s Hospital.

I am working toward becoming a child life specialist, someone who works with kids in medical settings to minimize trauma and promote positive psychosocial development. I love it—I describe it to kids as kind of a mix between teaching and nursing. But it’s not what I started out in. During undergrad, I first majored in sports management. When I discovered that there’s a whole field in which people work in hospitals to help kids cope with illness, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

In a role like the one I hope to eventually land, you provide preparation for surgical procedures, instruction related to diagnoses, end-of-life cafe, and bereavement support for children and families. Everything about that kind of caring for others appealed to me, so I changed my undergrad major to developmental psychology and then began working toward my master’s.

What’s your superpower?

I’m empathetic. I can meet people where they are and help them with whatever they need in the moment to get to wherever they’re going next.

Some valuable lessons you learned at Tufts?

One is the importance of networking. I’ve had so many opportunities since I started at Tufts, and almost all of them have come from talking to my professors about my interests. The faculty here are so supportive, and they know so many people in the Boston area and beyond; I’ve found that they’re more than willing to connect me with others.

Another is the importance of creating a balance. During my time here, I’ve had two jobs while being a student—and I still managed to have a social life. You have to actively work to find balance, I discovered. I stop doing schoolwork at 6 p.m. everyday so I can hang out with friends or do something for myself. I try to get all my work done before the weekends, so that I can really relax. You have to take time to be your own person and establish an identity outside of your job or schoolwork.

What’s next?

I’m doing a child life internship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia this summer; that’s my last step before I sit for the child life certification exam. After the exam, I’ll start applying for jobs and hopefully find something here at a hospital in Boston.

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