As I am sitting here contemplating what to write for my post, I am starting to feel a little bit emotional. As we are coming to the end of our freshman year, I have been in denial. Now, it’s starting to hit me how much I will miss my hallmates and my roommate. At the beginning of the year, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Although my classes were much more difficult first semester, it was definitely easier for me, because life was going great for me. I felt like I’d made so many new friends and I was having so much fun enjoying the full college experience. Second semester was a lot more challenging. College is such an incredible experience, but coming into it you don’t realize that it will test and challenge you in so many ways other than academically. Second semester, I took easier classes but life has thrown me a few curve balls. Right when the semester started, I really started to struggle with a lot of difficult and confusing questions about my faith, which I had never really done before. My faith is one of my defining identities and, during first semester, I was used to leaning on it for comfort and joy. So, when I started going through this period of doubt, I was always feeling conflicted and I no longer felt that comfort and joy, which was difficult. However, the questions I had were very important for me to be asking, and eventually I found peace in my answers. Looking back, I am thankful for this period of doubt because I grew so much in that identity of mine. Something that has also been heavy on my heart is my grandma, who is going to pass away soon from cancer (sorry this is like the most depressing blog post ever). I consider myself to be a very optimistic, happy person but in the past couple of weeks I have felt very sad and low for my grandma and family. I have noticed myself holding all of these feelings in. However, I am overcoming this challenge in baby steps, realizing that I need to be more open with my friends about what I’m going through, and to allow myself to also feel happiness and joy.
College is the first time that I have really had to figure out how to juggle all aspects of my life- school, friends, family life, SLEEP SCHEDULE, exercise, my diet- and in some of those categories (diet especially) I have failed miserably, but that is all a part of the experience. Overall, I have had so many high points and low points, and I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything, because they are making me who I am. I know everyone says it, but I have really grown up so much since I first walked through the doors on move-in day — in a good way :).
I really enjoyed hearing about Carrie’s domestic and international experiences. I was truly blown away by all of the work she has done and places she has seen throughout her life so far. You could tell that she really has her life together. Therefore, I was surprised when she was so honest about the mistakes she and her colleagues made while they were doing research in Durban, South Africa. What more could someone like Carrie, who had all of the right intentions, have done to prevent making mistakes while conducting global health work? Based on her lecture and my own experiences, I came up with a few points on how we can do global health work in the most respectful and ethical way.
- Be educated about the culture. In class, Carrie guided us through many ways to try to understand and learn more about a culture that is not our own: read their news, learn some of their language, be knowledgable about their religion, or even just use google to further educate yourself.
- Keep the perspective that your trip is not about you. Whether you are on a short-term service trip or conducting a year-long research project, the purpose of your trip is to impact your host community in a positive way. If at any point you feel that you are doing more harm than you are doing good, step back and re-evaluate.
- Be open to furthering your understanding of the world around you. Try to absorb everything about the community that you are in. While you are there, turn off your phone and forget about the stressors you have back home. Take advantage of the opportunity you have to understand more about a culture that is different from your own, and take what you learn home with you. If you encounter something that is culturally different than what you are used to, don’t act disgusted or surprised, because could be interpreted as disrespectful and can put a wall up between you and the community you are in.
- Accept that you are going to make mistakes (and admit to them when you do). In the beginning of class, Carrie mentioned that, even if you do all of your research, it is impossible to fully understand everything about a culture, unless it is your own culture. It is inevitable to make mistakes when you are working abroad. How you respond to your mistakes, however, makes all of the difference. When you make a mistake, make sure to recognize it, apologize, and educate others about what to do instead. Carrie did not have to tell us about her failed research project in Durban, but she thought it was important to humbly admit to it and share what she had learned with us so that we could use that knowledge during our own experiences.
My questions for you all: Did Carrie’s lecture provide you with any new perspectives about global health work? Do you plan on doing any work abroad? If so, how will you make sure that your work is culturally sensitive and necessary for the community you are in?
Before coming to school, I had no idea what college would be like. Therefore, I didn’t have many expectations of how things would go. In my letter, I expressed that I was scared for the future simply because I had no idea what was coming for me. I knew classes would be hard, but I didn’t know just how hard they would be. I knew there would be times where I was stressed, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle that well. I knew that I would be around other people almost all hours of the day, but I didn’t know that sometimes I would feel lonely.
On a professional level, I wrote that one of my goal’s for this year is to be more confident in myself and my abilities. Growing up, I struggled with self-confidence issues. Coming into college, I wanted to overcome these struggles once and for all. I think that I have made great progress in this goal. This progress was shown in my reaction to my second general chemistry exam. I did not do very well on it, and although some of my classmates did slightly better, I never questioned my intelligence. I am confident that I am smart enough to be here, and do not let the accomplishments of others make me feel like I am not good enough. I am proud of this, because it is so important to believe in yourself whenever you’re doing something that is important to you.
On a personal level, I wrote in my letter that I didn’t want to be afraid of what other people thought about me and wanted to make friends by being myself. HSSP has really allowed me to do this — I always feel like I’m loved and accepted.
Some of my best memories from growing up are from playing soccer. Soccer was so important to me, and I put a ton of pressure on myself to play well. On days when I did not, it could be challenging to deal with the frustration and anger that comes along with failure. In high school, I had a coach who, every year on try-out day, would say, “I care more about how you respond to your mistakes than your mistakes themselves.” In other words, he found that the best players were the ones who would fight to get the ball back as hard as they could if they lost it.
I was reminded of my coach’s words during the Pre-Health Panel when Lynette Wynn spoke about her experiences with failure. Like the rest of the speakers on the panel, Lynette mentioned that she had received an undesirable grade in an important class during her time as an undergrad at U of M. However, the perspective that she shared about this failure was very inspiring: failure gives you a unique opportunity to respond. These were just the words I needed to hear that night — the blood battle that was the second general chemistry midterm was still fresh in my mind. When I get back the score, I will be presented with a unique opportunity, and how I respond to it will be a great factor in how I do on the final exam. I can sit back and accept my doom that the final will be equally impossible, or I can work twice as hard to do better. No matter how I do on the final exam, I would rather be able to say that I couldn’t have studied harder for it, than to regret not doing more. I hope that this is a lesson that I will take with me not only through the rest of the classes I will take here as an undergrad, but one that I can apply to every goal I want to achieve in life.
My questions for you all: how much impact can a positive perspective have on the goals you wish to achieve? How has failure shaped the person that you are today?