HL&D Service Learning Experience

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

The STEP Signature Project I chose to participate in this past summer was a Service Learning and Community Service Project. The project consisted of serving the Jama community in the country of Ecuador while working alongside the community to build homes for the people of that community to live in. In return, we traveled along the beautiful country of Ecuador and even shadowed physicians, surgeons, and medical students for two weeks!

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

I would approach this question in two separate ways. First, when I read “your assumptions” or “your view of the world,” I automatically think how most Americans who have never left the country would picture a “3rd world country” such as Ecuador: run down, very poor infrastructure, out dated maybe, etc. However, I believe I have had a different experience growing up than most Americans. I am of Colombian decent, which is a country that borders Ecuador. Since infancy to my adult life, I spent almost every summer for the entirety of the summer in Colombia. Thus, I grew up often seeing places like Quito (in Ecuador) whilst in Colombia. However, now as an adult in college, I find that my views have since changed tremendously. Though I’ve always been grateful for all that I have, I have gained a new appreciation for my Hispanic culture and a deeper understanding of the beauty the world offers. Not only the physical beauty of the world, but how many people who have it “worse” than we do approach life and how they make life work for them.
Secondly, I would approach this from the perspective of personal growth, within me. This Project absolutely affirmed two things that I have come to recently learn about myself since becoming an Ohio State student. I have two passions in life: to serve my community and fellow human, and to study medicine. It also gave me the courage to live my life to the fullest and discover the world and all it has to offer.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

For this, I will talk about how my personal growth and affirmed desires were realized through my STEP Project. Throughout my trip, I met incredible people in all kinds of positions. I met doctors, medical students, nurses, and children and families in impoverished neighborhoods and communities in need. From the time I landed in Ecuador to the time I left, I felt nothing but happiness and high energy. I will break it down experience by experience week-by-week in order to demonstrate how this experience led to the changes felt in my answer to question #2. The company that we went through, Ecuaexperience, has three main components to its program. They go by HL&D and each letter describes a component that when placed together creates an amazing experience.
The “H” stands for Help. Through this, I definitely confirmed my passion for helping others. The Help component has a heavy focus and emphasis on building homes with a selected community by working WITH them to produce these homes. This year was a strange yet very much needed year for HL&D. The reason being is because in April of 2016, a massive earthquake devastated Ecuador. The areas affected included those along the west coast of the country, which included the community of Jama, the recipients of our efforts and homes. This earthquake was so destructive, we weren’t even able to go to the community to see and interact with them. We had to completely adapt the plan for building the homes. The way that this helped transform me is by seeing firsthand how in need these communities are and how I have a DIRECT impact in helping them feel a little more; a little more safe, a little more relieved, and a lot less desperate. We also were allowed to visit a community that was displaced by the earthquake which gave us time to interact with those who have lost their Although each situation is not the same, the principle stays the same: there are many ways to help people, and helping people makes me feel needed and alive, it makes me feel good. I related this experience back to my work with Camp Kesem at OSU and how I am helping these families affected by a parent’s cancer overcome the stress of cancer and cope with that.
The “L” stands for Learn. This component of HL&D is where I saw the most growth in terms of assurance for my future plans as a healthcare professional. For two weeks, we got to interact with medical students who did everything for us! These students translated for us, took us to and from the hospital, taught us workshops in several different things, and answered any questions we may have had. It also showed me personally that I could achieve my goal of being a physician if I put my best foot forward and try as hard as I can. In this component, I also interacted with physicians and nurses who were very eager to teach us what they know and help us with any questions we had. They wanted us to learn as long as we wanted to learn! The amount of hours put into those two weeks was incredible! We were given a case study each week that made us look deep into research to find the answer to a case that had multiple solutions. It allowed me to work with fellow students that went on the trip and foster relationships with awesome people that I stay communicate with to this day! It also definitely assured me that I am pursuing the right field and made the right choice to want to become a physician.
The final component of the program is the “D” which stands for Discover. During this part of the program, we spent 11 days traveling around the country of Ecuador. This truly gave me an appreciation of life and the world around me. In an age consumed by technology, this allowed me to interact with humans and build relationships with people in breathtaking and beautiful places that one can only dream of or see through photos on Google. I tried things I have never done before, I learned what it was like to discover myself, and I hiked through the Amazon rainforest. This may not seem like a big deal, but I struggled heavily and persevered through it and it made me realize that I can do anything I set my mind to and made me extremely proud of myself. On the trip, we had a motto with our group. It was “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Which I think is applicable to life in many ways and I am grateful for this experience.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

This transformation is significant to my life because it now assures me that I am on the right path for what I want to achieve in life. For about a semester during my second year, I questioned whether or not I wanted to be a physician. I questioned what was important to me. Classes were difficult, and I wanted to take the easier route out instead of fighting for what I was meant to do. This experience confirmed that I was on the right track initially, and I needed to continue the tract at all costs. The pure joy and excitement I got out of every single interaction with physicians, patients, or even members of the community that we worked with to build homes was immeasurable!
I plan to continue to recall on this experience to rekindle the fire in my passions so that they may continue to burn bright, regardless of what it takes to achieve my goals. My appreciation for my Hispanic heritage, other cultures, and traveling doubled, and I cannot wait until the next experience that allows me to immerse myself in another culture. This experience also allowed me to interact with people from other schools, and Canada (majority of the participants are Canadian), which was just incredible! This is something I am very fortunate to have been a part of and cannot thank Ohio State enough for the incredible opportunity.





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