STEP Reflection: Phang Nga

During my STEP signature project, I traveled to Thailand to volunteer with the organization GVI on their healthcare project. Throughout my two weeks, we engaged with the community through their local preschools, kindergartens and a facility aimed at helping young adults with disabilities. GVI in listening to the community partners services the community by providing English lessons and healthcare checks, as well as promoting good hygiene and an active lifestyle.

I saw a transformation in myself that I believe I would not have achieved had I not been granted the opportunity to go abroad with GVI. GVI provides a partnership with the community that is dynamic and changes based on what the community expresses as their needs. I learned adaptability that will be crucial for me in my upcoming years. I have always been a planner and have not taken well to when things get out of hand or out of my control. Naturally, thinking that I was embarking on a healthcare initiative I believed that would be the majority of my focus, and it was but not in the way I had anticipated. I appreciate this and everything else GVI was able to give me throughout my experience as a volunteer.

One way in which I learned adaptability was through encouraging an active lifestyle through teaching English with games. Getting the children up and moving through learning accomplished our goal of health as well as the communities of learning English. However, with young children, it is often difficult to hold their attention for an extended period of time. This is where the adaptability came into play. Working as a group, my fellow volunteers and I needed to always have a plan B, C, etc. when unavoidably our initial approach failed. We had to change the rules of the games to better suit the children’s abilities and understanding. I learned that although you can play something to a tee, there will likely be some curveball and I needed to learn to think on my toes in the moment.

An additional way that I learned adaptability was through teamwork and communication. Traditionally I have never been a fan of teamwork as there tend to be one or two people doing the majority of the work and several others who fail to accomplish everything. During my program, I was faced with the challenge of working with a team to lesson plan each day. While there was still a similar dynamic in which one individual was not pulling their weight, I was adaptable and encouraged the individual to express their opinions as to what we should teach and the best way to do so. In being encouraging the individual was more open to expressing their opinions and became gradually more involved in the planning. This showed me that through positive reinforcement you can encourage someone to step out of their comfort zone and participate in what might be scary for them. When planning we adapted to everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and played to each person’s strengths when scheduling to make a successful lesson plan for the next day.

A third way in which I was able to transform to a more adaptable person was through my interactions with individuals that speak a language different than that of my own. Most of my life I have only ever encountered English speaking people. Even when I traveled abroad to Europe as a child, most people I came across knew at least basic English so that we could communicate needs such as the bathroom or ordering food at a restaurant. This is a privilege that became highlighted during my program. Many of the people in the community we worked in spoke little to no English. This made me improvise and do my best to communicate with them in other ways. We had several Thai lessons that taught us basics such as how much does this cost and where is the bathroom. In learning to be adaptable and trying to speak their native language I was better able to communicate with them. I learned that though someone may not speak the same language there are many tools one can use such as gestures to get the point across. The adaptability I learned while abroad on my program was life-changing and I will continue to use this adaptability in my future endeavors.

This newfound adaptability will relate to my professional goals in a multitude of ways. For starters, working in healthcare as I do now, there are many times you think a situation will play out one way and it ends up the complete opposite. With adaptability, I will better be able to address these unforeseen outcomes and adjust my care to suit the patient’s needs. Adaptability is a necessity to anyone working in healthcare as you can never truly know what will happen to any given patient and you need to be able to change plans quickly should the current plan fail in its intended purpose.

In addition, adaptability will help me with my personal goals. I always strive to be a more flexible person when it comes to making plans. Through my program, I learned that you cannot plan out your day start to finish and expect it to remain the same from start to end. In my life, I used to try to plan my life to the minute to ensure I had time for everything I needed to accomplish. After my program, I realized it is good to have goals as to what I want to accomplish each day but that if something goes awry it is okay to just acknowledge that and move on to see how I can change the plans to better suit my needs for that particular day.