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Iliana Pliska-Bloch ’23

Iliana Pliska-Bloch smiling holding an autumn leaf

Now located: San Francisco, California

Me, in three words: curious, resourceful and empathetic

What is your favorite place on campus?
My favorite area is the 4th floor of the new Neilson Library. There is beautiful natural lighting and an outdoor area to get fresh air. There are big tables where my friends and I can sit together and work on our assignments. Everything, even homework, is more fun with friends.

What other activities are you involved in?
I am a Gold Key Guide, a member of Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) and the volleyball club. I was also a HONS and treasurer for both my house and SASA this past year. Over this summer, I have been working in Professor McMillan’s Little Lab studying how language acquisition in babies works when there is background noise. We’re also doing literature reviews and setting up the website of the lab. It has been so cool to get to see what research in psychology is like.

If you had to pick a type of clothing to represent you and fellow Smithies, what would it be and why?
I would describe Smithies as shoes. We’re specialized, but we are also a strong, crucial base to have. It wouldn’t be easy, but you could run in heels if you wanted to. You could wear sneakers with a fancy outfit if you wanted to. Smithies are just like that. Even my friends that are involved mainly with science love to talk about French and Italian literature with our friends who are English and Language majors. We handled the pandemic as best we could and supported our fellow classmates and professors as best we could. Just like your favorite pair of shoes, Smithies are supportive of everyone and anyone. If you need a job done, Smithies are ready to help, whether it is moving out of your room or solving an especially hard statistics problem. 

“Smith was the first time I was around such a geographically diverse group of students and it was surprising to see how similar we all were, regardless of where we grew up.”

How has your idea of a career changed since you started at Smith?
I always knew I wanted to study psychology, but I never knew exactly how that would translate into a career. Over the past year, I have taken classes in neuroscience and health psychology and I have learned that I can combine my interests in ways I never even considered. My professors have taught me that there is always a way to combine your passions. Now I am looking into careers that combine my interests in therapy and the brain with my commitment to advocacy and support around chronic illness. And, most importantly, I know that I don’t have to be sure yet. I can change my mind down the road as I learn new things.

What’s one thing that you discovered after you first came to Smith that surprised you?
One thing I discovered was how much I had in common with people from all over the country and the world. This was the first time I was around such a geographically diverse group of students and it was surprising to see how similar we all were, regardless of where we grew up. 

What is your favorite area of academics or research?
My favorite area of academics is where psychology and neuroscience overlap. I love learning about the brain and how it works. I love figuring how neurons in the brain can cause all sorts of behaviors and emotions. It is so interesting to see the connections—from what happens in our brain to how we interact with the world. That said, I also love my Italian classes! It is a beautiful language and I love learning about Italian literature and culture. The classes are smaller and the professors always make sure to focus on things that the class is most interested. 

What are some other hobbies or interests?
I have a lot of friends on the rugby team so I love going to their games and events. The team is super nice and they are always excited to have fans! I have also started knitting and I’m currently making a gift for a friend.

If you could tell a prospective student one thing about Smith, what would it be?
Don’t pressure yourself to find your forever best friend in the first two weeks of school. You will find your people. Just be patient. 

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Smithie Snapshots is a new profile series highlighting members of the Smith community, located all over the world.

About Iliana

Jordan House

Psychology and Italian Studies