Gaining perspective on the hardships in the current day throughout the world is one that few are able experience in their lives. The daily struggles faced by people throughout the world are only as difficult as the experiences that they have to compare them too. By partaking in a life-changing trip such as VIDA, I was able to readjust my idea of hardships in life and truly gain a respect for peoples ability to deal with life threatening issues on a daily basis. I was able to improve the quality of health care for nearly 1,000 inhabitants throughout the duration of my trip while experiencing culture, gaining social skills, and making life long friendships among fellow volunteers.
The transformation that I undertook throughout the duration of this trip is one that I doubt I would ever be able to experience in such a short time frame if it wasn’t for this opportunity graciously presented to me. I have always approached life in such a way that I have never taken the luxuries I enjoy for granted. However, this trip was one that made me truly realize just how thankful and humble I should be going forward as I attack whatever life throws at me. Before partaking in this trip, I treated materialistic items as a privilege in life. Since then, this trip made me realize that I should be thankful for the little things in life that often go overlooked such as water, food, shelter, and language. The sites I observed and lived in during the duration of this trip included people that were in dire need of food, shelter, and even the knowledge of how to read and write. All in all, my view of the world has changed significantly from previous years. Where there are privileged areas across many countries throughout the world, there are just as many, if not more, areas of poverty and underprivileged people.
A specific moment during the trip that truly began the inception of my transformation is one that I will never forget as long as I live. The VIDA team leader gave a speech to our group that encompassed two key points. The first being that we were told, “This trip is one that will drive you out of your comfort zone further than you could have ever imagined. Instead of shying away from this, embrace it and truly take full advantage of the opportunity being presented to you”. Before this trip, I was a person who rarely entertained the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone. I was satisfied with my position in life and felt no need to stray any further than what I was comfortable with. However, I took the advice of the team leader and I gained more perspective on life in two weeks than I had in over 2 years. It is truly amazing how much someone can grow as a person in life if they step out of their comfort zone.
The second of the two key points further emphasized the idea of perspective. Our team leader told us to make a clockwise circle with our finger near our waist level and asked us which direction our finger was going. Not surprisingly, we all said clockwise. After that, he asked us to continue moving our finger in the same direction and slowly raise it until it was above our head. He once again asked which way our finger was moving. A few began to say that it was indeed still rotating clockwise, but then we all stopped and looked up in silence. Puzzled, we all gained a notion in our head that our finger was now rotating counter-clockwise. Without further discussion the team leader said, “ That small example I have just presented you with is a small metaphor for what you will experience throughout this trip and what I hope you begin to use in your daily lives. No matter what situations we are presented with in life, it is always important to realize and understand the perspective that others may have on the situation”. With such a simple example, our team leader was able to make me realize the respect I should have for others opinions and situations they may be dealing with in life, regardless of whom they may be.
Another specific moment that I found very important in my transformation as a person was the initial experience I had with my first patient in the comfort of their own home. The conditions they were living in certainly shocked me in a way that I had never felt before. The floors were non-existent, the walls made of tin and cardboard, and the possibility of air conditioning in a scorching hot area nearly a dream.
Despite all of these dreadful and unimaginable conditions, the citizens of this property and the entire community were some of the most joyful and care free people that I have ever had the privilege to meet. It was truly inspiring to me to see such positive attitudes where the conditions deemed nearly impossible.
As my journey through the breathtaking countries of Costa Rica and Nicaragua progressed, there was a constant progression in my transition as a person. At night, once everyone had fallen asleep, I would lay and think about what all had happened during the trip to that point. I felt sorrow for the people I had worked with, but I also felt a sense of joy thinking about how much I had done to help the communities. In addition, I was surprised to realize how much the communities had taught me. I went into the trip assuming that I would make a huge difference in these peoples lives. While this was true, the people of the communities had taught me life lessons that were not presented by mouth, but by actions.
I have a strong belief that the transformation and personal development provided by this trip is one that will strongly impact my success in the future. On an academic level, I feel that this trip has immensely expanded my knowledge throughout the field of dentistry. This will allow me to have an edge when I begin my journey through dental school in the future. On a personal and professional level, this trip has provided me with the skill of relating to people and going into a situation with an open mind. In a profession such as the field of dentistry, it is vital that you are able to build strong relationships with the patients you treat and use that to provide them with a proper treatment plan. If a patient is unable to afford the treatment you plan you have made for them that is something that you certainly need to take into consideration. All in all, I am extremely grateful that I was able to partake in this wonderful life changing experience and I want to personally thank STEP for allowing me to take one step closer towards fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming a dentist.