FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2022
My study abroad program came to a close on Sunday, May 8. I have taken the past few days to acclimate to the new environment in my hometown and to reflect on the experiences that made my program transformative, educational, challenging, and complete. The stark change in pace and priorities in my mind makes me feel a tad bit unsettled since it feels like I have to compartmentalize my entire study abroad experience in my mind, only to tap into the archives whenever someone asks me about my last semester or when I choose to contribute what I have learned to a social situation. Make no mistake, I am not the same person who left to study abroad and my personality, behavior, and embodied sense of social responsibility are irreversibly changed. I naturally carry myself differently nowadays to reflect the growth that I have experienced and navigate my day-to-day life accordingly with the lived knowledge I have acquired the past four months.
As thoughts and plans of graduation, post-grad life, moving into a new apartment, and urgent family matters whirl around in my mind like a never-ending washing machine, one of my challenges is to do justice by the people who made my study abroad possible and by me to show my loved ones what I value from my experience. It is my honest intent to incorporate the lessons I have learned into my character. Honestly, it tempts me to leave my experience behind as a point of conversation as I usually do with my college semesters in the U.S. since there almost always are a billion pressing matters waiting for me upon return at home. I want this post-semester period to be different. My life will always be busy, which means I have to make time and space for what I value. I will tell people about the important issues specific to cultural contexts that are tied to public health, how my interests have evolved and expanded as a consequence of what I have seen and felt, and how my experience is a testament to how crucial it is to change our ideas of the world in a way that breaks stereotypes. There is no one accurate frame through which to generalize countries, cultures, and the people within both of them. Using the theories that I have learned in class, the experiences that I have applied my theories to, and the practical knowledge of the public health systems and socio-political landscapes in each country, I will embrace and encourage pluralistic thinking in our conceptualizations of people situated in other parts of the world as well as the institutions that they interact with and comprise.
A perk of being an adaptable person is that I get used to environments quickly and do not easily get culture shock. The U.S., just the same as India, South Africa, Jordan, and every other nation on Earth, has its troubles. Now, I have the opportunity to approach them and their manifestations using a newly-improved toolkit informed by my global insights. I thank everyone who contributed to my experience, including official program staff, transportation drivers, people I met by chance, the Fund for Education Abroad, Grinnell College faculty and staff, and my loved ones who always cheered me on forward. Thank you to those who read these blogs as well and I will continue to share what I have learned for the rest of time!