As of yesterday at 3:19pm CDT I arrived in Manhattan. Not the Manhattan of the Big Apple in New York City, but Manhattan Kansas, aka the Little Apple. I am here for a 5-day course in Plant Biosecurity presented by Kansas State University’s Biosecurity Research Institute.
What is biosecurity? How is it defined? There are so many definitions for the word “biosecurity” that what it exactly houses is too crumbly and loose to be unanimously defined. Efforts to protect humans, plants, and animals from disease, pests, and destruction help furnish the basic definition of biosecurity. More than that, I am learning a lot about the people in biosecurity and how passionate they truly are. There are 29 people in this course, and I have had the chance to have a real conversation with 14 of them in just the first day. I engaged with people from Brazil, Australia, Turkey, Israel, New Zealand, and from various places in the United States. Every person that I talked to expressed a great passion for solving biosecurity problems and truly cared for how life was affected by biological concerns. I quickly recognized how privileged I am to attend this course and I am truly excited for each day to come.
Throughout the day I felt like a sponge, from 8 AM til 8 PM I absorbed as much information as my brain could handle. I went into this knowing absolutely nothing about biosecurity, but after today I feel that I have learned a whole semester’s worth of information. The full ten pages of notes that I took barely scratch the surface of what I learned, and I hope that by the end of the week that I have at least fifty pages of knowledge recorded. The most stimulating aspect of today was the discussion. Having a voice in deciding how to approach examples of biosecurity concerns glued my eyes open to how important my voice has the potential to be in my life. In the past I have been a quiet person, one who learns through observation and individual conversation, but so much can happen when I let my opinion be shared with others. The most efficient way to tackle these complex problems is to cooperate with a group of people in order to expand understanding and uncover uniquely effective solutions. This is something that I have found an appreciation for today.
Some of you might be wondering why I, a rising sophomore Biology Major on a Pre-Med track, am taking this course; I was puzzling out the same thing on the plane ride out here. After all, I do not want to be a plant pathologist, entomologist, or even a biological researcher; I want to be a doctor working in high trauma situations. But I feel that this opportunity will greatly affect how I proceed in terms of my perspective and ability. By conversing with the people here, I realize how fortunate I am to even have lab experience at my age. I am in a country and at a university where I can gain hands on experience in a lab without having to compete against thousands of other people for a chance to use a pipette. It is easy to take for granted the opportunities that I have, but these opportunities are incredibly rare for most people in the world. I already treasure my experiences here, and it is definitely a course that feels pertinent to me.
Even though I doubt that I will change my career aspirations, I am growing in my compassion for helping others and in valuing the importance of the impact I will have on the world. The information that I am learning here is beyond value, and I know that I will never view the world around me the same after this.
The beautiful Konza Prairie in Manhattan Kansas.