My STEP Signature Project entailed travelling to Manipal, India on a four-week Ohio State-led study abroad experience. The focus of the trip was public health and the classroom and fieldtrip experiences were tailored to this subject area.
In addition to broadening my scope of public health knowledge, I learned about myself through this trip. This travelling was the first time I went out of the country without my parents. Being able to successfully travel and function in a different country was exciting and something I was unsure I would be capable of. Additionally, this was my first experience truly being a minority. It made me reflect more deeply about the minority experiences in the United States and how I can more appropriately and respectfully interact with everyone I come into contact with. As someone who was clearly an outsider, I felt my actions were more scrutinized by locals. Through this trip, I increased my independence while critically reflecting on my behaviors.
There were several specific events that I believe led to these transformations. The first event was travelling from Dayton, Ohio to Manipal, Karnataka. Although my tickets were in a group of more than twelve others, nine of the students missed their connection so I was left unprepared with just two other students and without my professor. However, by having confidence in ourselves and being very aware, my two companions and I were able to safely arrive through three connecting flights at our final destination.
One event which happened frequently was eating in the dining hall. This was the main occurrence when students from my trip could interact with other students at the university. There were students from Singapore, China, and many more countries. In this situation, we were not the special foreigners; rather, we blended into the crowd. The contrast between this situation and being stopped on the street for pictures really made me think about being someone who is clearly different in a group. I hope now to be making other people comfortable when they are in that situation.
A final event was visiting the nearby temple. Unlike many of the other sites we visited, this temple was actively used by the local people. It was my first personal experience with the religion of Hinduism. Before this experience, I had different ideas of what it meant to be Hindu or what Hinduism valued. After being invited to dance in a group of celebration outside the temple, I felt I understood better the joy of life central to this religion and so many others.
In the future, I hope to work in health care. It is easily evident how the transformations I underwent through this trip will be beneficial to me and also to any patients I might treat. By being in a different environment and a different place in society than I am usually, I hope I will be better able to empathize or put myself in the shoes of others in the future. Additionally, through the course content, I learned so much about global health. This knowledge will be directly applicable to my career path. Through this trip I gained both tangible knowledge and intangible personal growth which will help me be more compassionate and in turn a better healthcare provider.