Global Health

Global Health

I think the most surprising thing about Carrie’s lecture was her feeling about it as a whole. She seemed to regret certain aspects of her research while in South Africa. She claimed that the way she handled herself while in Durban, South Africa led to her having less of an impact. She spent too much time interested in the bus system and other less important aspects of Durban, and didn’t notice that the building across the street from the school was extremely dangerous for kids. This lead to Carrie’s suggestions on limiting violence not being feasible for this specific town. This surprised me because I feel like I would have made the same mistake. When I travel, I tend to fall into more of a tourist than an actual observer of the culture. This has huge ramifications when one is actually doing research to help a community. It is so easy to get caught up in the less important aspects when one is in a place that is so different than what they are used to. To make a legitimate difference using research in a new culture, one has to put away their tourist side and get to the bottom of what they are trying to fix.


Another thing I think is very important when it comes to doing research abroad, is to know why you are doing it. Carrie talked about people that go to another country to set up a project that doesn’t help the community after they leave. These people will go to the country, take a picture with the native people there, post it on Instagram, then leave the country without making an impact. This is utterly unacceptable. Carrie went to Lima, Peru to help eradicate the spread of HIV. She went to Durban, South Africa to make the lives of children there safer. She knows exactly what she is doing every time she left the country, which is why she has such a successful impact. Find what you want to change in the world, then go out and do it. If you’re doing it to take pictures and put it on a resume, there is a chance you can do more harm than good.


The hardest part of doing research abroad seems to be figuring out the culture of wherever you are going to be. What would you all do to get a better understanding of the culture of where you are going? Who would you talk to? What research would you do prior to your arrival?


12 thoughts on “Global Health

  1. I agree with you; I also feel like I would make a mistake similar to Carrie’s mistake in Durban. Being a researcher from another country, it is easy to presume that you have the knowledge and ability to “fix’” things for the local people / community. But after all, you’ll still an outsider, and you’ll never know the community better than the local people do. This is why doing prior research on others’ cultures is so important. If I am going abroad to study, volunteer, or do research, I should do my best to educate myself before the trip. I’d search online to better understand their culture: what are their languages? What are some of the current events that are happening in this country? What behaviors are acceptable, and what are not acceptable in their culture? I would also contact my hosts, or the people that I’ll work with in that country, asking them for more information and guidance. But even after all those researches, I should still recognize that I’ll never know everything about the people and culture there. So I should keep a humble and open mind, continue to learn even after I arrive to my destination.

  2. I agree with you in what you mentioned above! It is completely easy to get distracted and lose our focus on our goal, especially in a new setting/environment. It is our human instinct to explore what we don’t know much about, or follow our curiosity, but also, it should be limited when our task is to help our community. I would have made the same mistake Carrie did in losing her focus. To prepare ourselves when doing research abroad, one should do their research in figuring out the weather, languages, life style, food, transportation, and clothing that way one is already aware of what to expect and isn’t completely surprised. It would help minimize distraction, but also help one become familiar and comfortable with the environment.

    I would do my research beforehand to try to find someone that knows the local area more or ask someone from my team if they know any contacts in the new setting. Prior to my arrival, I would investigate what I would be working with and the type of setting and if there is any important information I must know from someone in that area. It is imperative that one leaves prepared that way there won’t be unexpected surprises, but also it will help provide a smooth travel/transition and can help increase the chances of providing effective results that will benefit the community.

  3. I agree with what you said. It is so easy to fall into a touristy mind set and look past the actual culture, especially when the culture is so different then where we come from. Having lived abroad and traveled to try to alleviate some pressures in struggling places, it was so easy to try to change everything into some form of what we are comfortable with, even if the things we are changing likely don’t have anything to do with what is causing the issues in the first place.

    I think when it comes to researching a place/culture, I would want to talk to someone who is actual embracing it, not someone who learned it from someone else. I would want a primary source of information to prevent confusion.

  4. I agree, I think it was surprising to hear her feel regretful about certain aspects of her trip because most people do only find the joy in working abroad to just say that they were there. However, she was not satisfied with that and was disappointed that her plan to make a difference did not work in the time she spent there.
    To get a better understanding of the culture of where I am going, I would as you said not act as a tourist. I would put myself in a native person’s shoe and go through the day the same way they would. I would want to talk to the elderly of the community so that I can learn some history of the place, and I will talk to the kids because they easily spill out information that adults would want to keep a secret maybe. Prior to my arrival I would do research on what the government is like, what the big businesses are, etc. Taking the initiative to learn before going is the first step in being culturally sensitive.

  5. I agree with many great points you made in your post. I recently went on a service abroad and needs assessment trip to the Dominican Republic over spring break. Our team met weekly in preparation for the trip to better understand the culture of the country and things we would expect to see. We discussed the culture and how it differs from ours as well as our individual social identities and how difference between they may be perceived in the Dominican Republic versus here in America. We learned a lot about social awareness and maintaining respect in a different cultural environment. I found that these definitely helped me prepare for the trip to the DR. During the trip, we created relationships with our hosts who were native Dominicans. We asks our hosts questions about things we were curious about. However, we ensured that when asking these questions, we were clear that we were simply trying to learn more about the culture and history of the country. After the trip, our team remains in contact with many of the organizations and medical teams we volunteered with. We are currently working on assessing needs that we saw during our trip in order to develop a project team that will resolve an important and relevant need. Overall, this trip was an incredible experience, and I am proud to have been apart of a service abroad experience that maintains partnership with the community even after the trip.

  6. Naturally, acclimating to another culture with different values and customs is incredibly hard. I think the easiest way to acclimatize to that kind of setting is to investigate and do research on the culture present there. What is popular/socially common? What do people eat? What makes the culture unique? However, even with all this research its impossible to fully prepare yourself for the forthcomings of a new area until you experience it yourself. So I think the only thing you can control is going in with an open mind.

  7. This past summer I went to volunteer at a school in Kigali, Rwanda. Although I really value my time spent there, I didn’t leave feeling like I had made a difference. I was an outsider and tourist observing the life of the people in Rwanda rather than integrating myself into the culture. If I go back to Rwanda, I want to have a plan to do research or set up a project. I was only there for one week over the summer. More time would be necessary to begin to understand the culture and people. I need to have a “why” to my trip and a purpose rather than just going for fun and calling it a service trip. I would have a more successful trip if I have a goal going into it.

  8. I agree with your comment on how Carrie felt as if she regretted many of her research experiences abroad due to her lack of knowledge of the culture. This was very eye-opening to learn about because it allowed me to realize that it is not simply enough to go abroad with the intention and motivation to help and serve. Often times people can become blinded by the idea of going abroad that they can forget all of the other aspects that need to be taken into consideration in order to actually make an effective impact.

    This summer I hope to volunteer abroad and I will make sure to learn about the culture before I go. I think I great way to do this is to talk to previous students who went on the same trip abroad in order to grasp a sense of their experience and learn about the things they wished they knew or how you can do things differently. Researching the culture online is also a great way to expand your knowledge as well as maybe talking to the coordinators of the program so that you can be prepared for what to expect and how to react.

  9. I believe that I could only fully understand the culture as a member of that community. I don’t feel like any amount of research could possibly teach me to think the same way to think as someone else. In order to deal with this gap in cultural knowledge, I would need a contact. In order to get a contact, I would either need to know someone prior to the trip who used to live there, or I would have to make a friend on the trip who could help me. I think I would need to talk to everyone in the community, or as many people as possible in order to gather solid information. Before leaving for my trip, I would mostly research safety related procedures. When it came to developing my research, I would try to understand relevant factors prior to coming.

  10. I was also surprised about Carrie’s attitude toward her South Africa trip. I feel like most people think that no matter where they go or what they do, they will feel good about themselves because they were the “heroes” to this less fortunate country. I think we can ensure that global health work is conducted in a culturally sensitive and ethical manner by being aware. I think it is important to be both aware of yourself and where you are going. When you are aware of your faults or weaknesses, you can be more likely to correct yourself, in a way. For example, if you know that you like to be a leader and fix everything, then you can be conscious of when your behavior has led to your work becoming less productive. I think it is important to be aware and conscious of the beliefs and cultures of where you are going because if you go into a foreign land without knowledge of how those people work or live, then, no matter what you may be trying to implement in their land, the work will be less receptive.

  11. Going to another country the most important part for me would be integrating myself into everyday life as if I were a resident there. I would definitely love to become close to the people in these locations and gain their perspective. I would ask so many questions including questions about growing up there. “What you see isn’t always the truth”. So questioning things further is very important, not just in research in another country, but any part of daily life.

  12. Inorder to learn more about a culture from another country, I would probably do a lot of research through general search engines like google. However, I think that possibly talking to someone with experience with that specific location could help further improve my understanding of the culture abroad. Even so, I would keep in mind that not matter how much research I participate in, I am not an expert an have to be accept that I can’t know all about a culture but enough to respect people from that culture. So in general, exposure in my opinion is the way to go when preparing ones self to travel for research in another country.

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