As I began my undergraduate career, I knew I wanted it to be marked by a focus on healthcare, intellectual development, and intercultural competency. Study away provided me with many valuable opportunities to realize these goals.
My study away experiences greatly impacted my career trajectory. Through my summer and semester travels to Washington, D.C, Spain, Costa Rica, India, South Africa, and Brazil, I learned about the health realities experienced by individuals of varied backgrounds. I came to understand the relationship between health outcomes and historical context, race, socioeconomic status, and cultural and religious practices. By visiting community members and health administrators in neighborhoods, clinics, and hospitals in these various locales, I gained an understanding of healthcare from an individual and population perspective. These unique opportunities blossomed a passion in me for working in the public and global health fields.
My travels have built my courage and inquisitiveness and made me a global thinker. I constantly aim to reject imposing notions of “should” and “ought to” to foreign cultures and contexts. I have learned to challenge the well-known idea of “treat others as you want to be treated” and instead have embraced the idea of “treat others as they want to be treated”. In essence, I am better able to look outside of myself, broaden my perspective and viewpoint, and consider issues with a multifaceted approach.
Over the past four years, I have changed and grown in ways that were beyond my wildest dreams. Everyone says that college will be transformative and life-changing. Study away has been key to helping me see the truth in that statement. I have become flexible, adaptable, and self-reliant. My experiences abroad have contributed to my love of cultural exchange. I have learned from, shared with, and experienced the warmth of people I now call family. The weeks and months spent away are rife with unique life experiences that I will cherish, laugh at, and even shed a tear over for years to come. I have benefitted holistically from studying away and it will always be a bright spot in my Duke journey. The personal and professional lessons I learned will stay with me forever, and I pray that I can continue developing as a well-rounded, globally and culturally competent individual through continued travel and engagement with my local communities.
My advice for students considering embarking on a study away program is - do it! You will grow in a myriad of ways. Your world view will be challenged and diversified. You will come to learn who you are when what you know and rely on is no longer near. You will return to your home community or country with knowledge of another way of life. The realizations that you will make about the world and yourself are valuable, and you will have an experience of a lifetime.