Probably my greatest challenge this year was changing my study habits and adapting to the tougher courses here at the University of Michigan. I did very well in high school academically, even while balancing many other extracurriculars, so I expected I would continue to meet all my academic goals here. Of course, I came in expecting it to be harder, but all the same, first semester was rough. I ended up with some sub-par grades on exams and final grades by my standards which left me realizing I will need to work a lot harder in college than I did in high school. I felt a lot of guilt and regret for not trying harder sooner. I didn’t take all my classes seriously enough and left most of my studying for exam week. This study habit of heavy procrastination has been very difficult to change since I have had it for most all of my academic career until now. I began by trying to take better notes in my classes, reading my textbook before class, and doing more practice exams prior to the actual exams. I think it will take a while for me to get better at being proactive in learning course material and practicing it, but I definitely made some progress in this second semester. This great challenge made me accept that failure is bound to happen, realize that I am not as smart as I thought I was, and motivated me to try harder to meet my academic goals than I ever have before. It was hard coming to terms with my failure, but, honestly, I am glad it happened so early on in my college career so I don’t settle for the same failure later on. I can’t change the past, but I can definitely change my habits to make the future better.
Probably the most influential story in Carrie’s lecture was about her MIRT research she did in Durban, South Africa and how they came up with a solution to lessen the school’s youth violence. She told us about how they completely failed to realize that the school is across the street from a liquor store and that it isn’t a safe environment for the kids past dark so her solutions weren’t applicable. This anecdote was a powerful reminder that although people may want to go do international work for global health and do their best to help, they may not know enough about the culture or environment to truly be helpful and all their work will just benefit them. This raises the importance of taking time to really get to know the people you are serving. It is important to be culturally aware and competent as well as to take reciprocity into account.
Last summer, I went on a mission trip to Bolivia and spent time with orphans in Santa Cruz. We had gone to help create and open a new orphanage near Santa Cruz, and some had gone to provide medical services. Upon the initial immersion into the country and primary interactions with the people, I came to realize just how unprepared some of us were for the trip. We surely were all competent enough for the main mission and the manual labor we had to do as we tried our best to limit the burden of our presence to them; however, I found that some of us still had a substantial language barrier. Carrie’s experiences she shared with us reminded me so much about how some of us had really wished we had gotten to know the language better before going to Bolivia. As she said, cultural sensitivity, competence, confidentiality, collaboration, and personal image should be part of the basis of global health work.
Because of Carrie’s lecture and my own experience, I think it is very important to first get to know the people you are serving/researching and understand their cultural norms and environment they live in. One can make sure their work is culturally sensitive by learning the people’s language, reading up on their cultural norms, or even spending time with them and asking questions. By making the proper preparations for the research immersion, one can limit their burden on the people they are serving and maximize reciprocity.
What else in Carrie’s lecture spoke to you guys? How do you think the information she shared with us in the lecture can help you in your future as a medical professional whether you are planning to participate in global health work or not? And if you will participate in global health work, how can you maximize reciprocity?
Over the course of this semester, I feel that I became much more open to new experiences. I was exposed to a lot of people, discussions, and situations that I had minimal experience with before. The diversity found at this university has really helped me grow as a person and become more well-rounded. My self-confidence has been boosted after finally getting used to university life and the campus atmosphere. I have also learned many lessons including that I may need to study differently for different classes than how I did in high school. In my “Letter to Yourself” I wrote to my future self about the usual things: meeting new people, growing as a person, growing spiritually, figuring out my major options and what I want to do a bit more, and of course avoiding the freshman 15. I am most proud of starting to learn how I need to handle the beast that is college and juggling all the responsibilities. I was a bit nervous coming in as is evident in my letter. However, I feel that I have figured out enough to be less nervous and learn my options for my future that I am considering taking seriously. Now that I somewhat understand what is required of me in my university career, I want to start implementing these lessons next semester and become a lot more proactive. This was just the transition, the first semester. Who knows what the future will hold and what the path is that I will carve or the basket of experiences that shall be woven? Time shall tell.
To answer the question of what I think is “my purpose” is very challenging. I have not fully figured out what my purpose is yet, but what I do know is that I really enjoy working with kids and helping people. I feel that I can do this through practicing medicine; however, I am not one-hundred percent sure that this is my passion because I have had minimal experience. Thus, I would like to gain more experience while exploring other options outside my comfort zone to make sure that medicine is my true passion. The main excuses I have made are that I am sleeping/too lazy to do the work necessary to follow my passion or that I am not smart enough to be divergent from the status quo. The best way I can think of to combat my laziness is to think about how each step in my career brings me closer to my passion. Larry’s conclusion to his talk with the word “unless” leaves the audience with a cliffhanger in the middle of a phrase because each person has own unique ending to that sentence. The key is finding and knowing the right combination of words to complete it, catered to their specific self and interests.