Dear Past Jacob,
College is better than anything you could ever imagine. The friends you will make here are going to be some of the most incredible people you have ever met. They are going to be so supportive in whatever you plan on doing. Your roommate is going to end up being like a brother to you. You still are going to want to be a doctor, but you are also going to want to be a pharmacist, professor, neuromonitorist, social worker and basically any other health profession. Maybe one year from now Jacob will have more answers. It’s his problem anyways. There are going to be hard times here, but they are no different than the hard times you had back home. The 300 person lectures that you say “aren’t that bad” are that bad. Your professor won’t know you at all, regardless of how often you go to their office hours. The professors that do make the time to get to know you are going to be more mentor than lecturer. You’re going to want to join every club and do everything, but just know that it’s ok to drop out of some clubs. Don’t sign up to be a fencer. You’ll wind up going to two practices and then never touching it again. When you are deciding between an 8 am class and a 6 pm class, suck it up and take the 8 am because you’re going to hate being in class until it’s actually dark outside. You’re going to have so much fun here. You’re going to learn so much here. You’re going to grow so much here. Enjoy it all and take pictures because it’s going to fly by.
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?
College is harder than I thought. A lot harder. It’s also more fun than I thought it would be. The friendships I have made here are deeper than I thought would they would be. This semester has shown me so much more about what I value in life. In my letter to myself, I wrote that I wanted to grow both intellectually and personally. I without a doubt did. The one thing I am proud of the most is how much I have grown. I have found organizations that put me with some of the most spectacular people I have ever met. I am doing research that could make an actual difference in medicine. I have found professors that actually care about me and are trying to give me the future that I want. There is so much support here, it is incredible. My biggest fears for the next semester is my increased class load. I am taking three more credits next semester. The classes will also be much more difficult, but I think with the help of the people close to me I will be able to make it through. I also want to join different organizations, ones that are a little more creative and a little less about volunteering. I would love to write more than I do now, and give myself more time to relax without worrying about the future. All in all this semester has been so much more than I would have ever thought. I have loved every second of it.
The most surprising thing that I learned from this past lecture was how homosexuality was considered a disease that needed to be cured. Homosexuality is not something that simply started in the early 1900’s. Many of the early societies, such as the Greeks and Romans, fully embraced the entire spectrum of sexuality. I believe that one of the main reasons there was such a large stigma around being homosexual was the fact that it was considered a disease. Doctors take an oath to do no harm, but is it not harmful to tell someone their lifestyle is something that needs to be cured?
In my opinion, the main reasons there are health inequities in the LBGQT field is because of how current medical professionals treat them. Their are numerous cases of doctors mistreating these people whether it be misgendering them or blatantly refusing to treat them. These actions have dire consequences, in many cases these people end up dying or committing suicide. I believe that it is up to us as the next generation of medical professionals to reduce these disparities. What are your plans to help reduce health disparities in the LGBQT community in the future?