from germany, to hungary, to unc

By Jessica Gates

Oliver Takach has dreamed of becoming a medical doctor since he was 8 years old. The pursuit of this dream has taken him on a journey from a medical school in Hungary to the University of Northern Colorado.

Takach was born and raised in Germany until his family moved to Arizona when he was in middle school. After high school graduation, Takach’s visa status prevented him from pursuing his education at a university in the United State. But Takach has extended family living in Hungary, which has some of the best medical schools in the world.

And so, Takach studied medicine for two years in Budapest, Hungary, where he said he quickly learned the rigorous classes and difficult professors were there to stop students from graduating.

“They expect you to fail,” said Takach, who was required to take 32 credit hours each semester and attend classes eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. “I eventually learned that in that type of system I just couldn’t excel. After two years I felt like I wasn’t learning and didn’t fit into that education or health care system.”

Despite feeling discouraged and miserable, giving up on his dream of becoming a physician and medical researcher was not an option for Takach. He came across UNC, after a long Internet search, and called Reid Hayward, a professor in the sport and exercise science department, to find out more.

Takach said the two-hour phone conversation with Hayward was his sign that UNC was a university where professors care about their students— a university that he knew he wanted to attend.

“I made my choice then and there that I would move to the U.S. and pursue my dreams of becoming a doctor and medical researcher,” Takach said.

Now a junior at UNC, Takach has been a resident assistant for two years, maintained a 4.0 GPA in his chemistry major, worked in the research lab with Hayward and even conducted his own research project alongside a doctoral student in the summer of 2009.

Takach said his drive comes from remembering the people whom he can deliver joy and happiness to one day.

“I have found that medicine is the one profession where compassion meets intellect,” Takach said. “And these are the attributes I have always dreamed of excelling in throughout my life.”

Takach’s global understanding and academic excellence recently earned him UNC’s Allen and Lily Huang Global Citizenship Award. This prestigious award was presented to Takach at the 2009-2010 International Achievement Awards Ceremony, hosted by UNC’s Center for International Education.

Keynote speaker Binka LeBreton studied abroad in college and is now a writer, environmentalist and human rights activist and has lived in Brazil for the past 20 years. LeBreton commended UNC’s international students for studying abroad, saying it is the single best way to pursue an education.

“You never know when you start out on life where your adventures are going to take you,” LeBreton said. “If you knew you might not go. It is amazing what happens to us when we just go for it.”

Takach’s speech upon receiving the award echoed LeBreton’s as he encouraged everyone to pursue their dreams, no matter what obstacles they might encounter.

International Student Awards
Undergraduate Academic Excellence Motoaki Honda, Japan
Graduate Academic Excellence Caly Setiawan, USA
Global Understanding Matthew Kennedy, USA
Bob Ross International Ambassador and Activities Alexander Viot, France
Allen and Lily Huang Global Citizenship Award Oliver Takach, Hungary

“We are all here in the U.S., more specifically at the University of Northern Colorado, to chase our dreams,” Takach said. “And we have placed our trust in UNC and the opportunities that are found here, to one by one whittle the odds that are stacked against us.”

Erin Ridge, the graduate assistant for cross cultural planning for CIE and the coordinator of the awards ceremony, said it is important to recognize the academic achievements of international students because they are often overlooked.

“We can learn a lot from people who are different from us,” Ridge said. “It’s good to be exposed to different cultures and different ways of learning.”

Takach said although international students have learning curves to overcome, he knows they can still be as successful as anyone else if they have dreams.

“If you dream big you will have to overcome bigger obstacles—that’s part of the definition of a dream,” Takach said. “A dream is going beyond something that you personally think is attainable.

As Takach looks forward to his senior year at UNC, he knows he is going to encounter obstacles while applying for an M.D./Ph.D. program. Still, he remains optimistic, knowing that one more brick wall won’t be able to hold back his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.