It has been a long time since I last posted here and a lot has happened in my life since my trip around the world. I just finished the first year of Harvard Medical School and am working in Rwanda for the summer with Partners in Health/Inshuti Mu Buzima doing quality improvement research related to neonatal mortality. I’m keeping a photo blog of the adventures I’m having in East Africa and thought I’d share the address here: climbathousandhills.com
I’ve been home for nearly four months now which is hard to believe. I ignorantly envisioned the end of my job as being my return home, but this summer has been a lesson in how much time it takes to process material collected abroad.
The first step was going through, editing, and organizing the seven thousands photos I took so that The Dickey Center could easily use them in the future. This was a monumental task to say the least. But I’ve gotten to see my photos pop up in Dartmouth publications which has been so much fun.
Second, I needed to make a video. Photo editing was easy and enjoyable for me, but creating a video was a different story. I’d never made a video before and so not only was I taking nearly 30 hours of footage and trying to compress it into a 3.5 minute video, I had to learn how to make the video while doing this. A couple months down the road I have a video that I’m pleased with, although its clearly made by a beginner. Plus, in the end, I really enjoyed making the film and I’m glad I’ve added this skill to my story-telling toolbox. The capacity to tell stories with film is simply magical and I hope to do it again in the future. have a newfound respect for the amount of effort that goes into making a feature-length film, let alone a 3.5 minute video. The process also helped me reflect on what I learned through out the trip and the value of the experiences these students were having. Over and over again, as I listened to hours of interview footage, I heard students emphasizing how important this experience was to them and how it would dramatically shape their futures. Some go so far as to say it has been the most valuable experience in their entire Dartmouth education.
I also wrote an article for the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine which was a fascinating experience. I realized as I read my first draft, that I hadn’t written a creative story in years. My first draft read more like an essay with a thesis and clear supporting arguments. From years of pounding out scientific style pieces late at night for classes here at Dartmouth, I had forgotten how to write for fun. But with the help of advisors at the magazine and at The Dickey Center, I began to enjoy writing the story and began to break the strict structure I had used to write for so many years. Like looking through photos, and creating the video, writing about my experiences was also rewarding and helped me to process what I had seen and done. I think the biggest realization was that I began to find common threads between students who had positive experiences and those who had negative experiences abroad.
I started to understand what made a great experience, and what made a mediocre one. It has become clear to me the importance of having a community or peer group to be a part of is incredibly important for most people to be happy abroad for extended periods of time. This can take many shapes, and the community can of course be a local community, but students with friends abroad were infinitely happier than those who felt isolated. While this sounds simple, speaking from experience, making real friends while abroad can be incredibly challenging and it take a long time and a lot of effort.
Finally, I put together a photo exhibit for the Dickey Center. Similar to making a 3.5 minute video from 30 hours of footage, I had to select 25 photos from 7000. Going through the photos again this fall to make the selection has just reminded me of all the beautiful places in the world. While I was happy to return home this past summer, 4 months back in Hanover already have me itching to go out and see more.
Overall, I want to thank everyone at The Dickey Center for International Understanding who made this entire experience possible. I’m in the process of looking for jobs right now and it’s proving difficult to find any job that will match up to this one. I only hope I can find something that will be half as magical. These last 6 months have been an incredible journey personally and I can’t thank them enough for this opportunity. Special thanks to Amy Newcomb, Kim Hanchett, Lee McDavid, Sharon Tribou St. Martin, Christiane Hardy Wohlforth, Jessica Freedman, Esteban Castaño, and Art Hanchett at The Jones Media Center for all their help and support. Plus thanks to all the students who were brave enough to go on these adventures, without them I would have nothing to share with you! Finally, I want to thank my amazing family and friends who’ve support me through out this time!
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the experiences these students are having. The hours spent on long, hot, crowded buses, trying new foods, learning new languages, being challenged by different customs and perspectives are what make us global citizens. What we learn in the classroom can only take us so far. We need to get out and experience what we’re reading about. The Dickey Center, Off Campus Programs, The Tucker foundation and numerous other Dartmouth organizations are working hard to make this a reality for students and I hope we can all support them in this vital effort.
One final picture:
Finally graduating, only days after I landed in the states.