Sunday, August 2, 2015

From the Beginning to the End

Ever since the day that I started packing up for the 3-week long trip, my energy has been completely built up of excitement and eagerness. On the other hand, I was unsure of what I would get out of the whole trip. I guess in a way, everything took me by surprise.

On Day 1 of traveling, Don had a limousine come to transport us to the airport. It was out of the ordinary, but we still enjoyed the ride for as long as we could. We were on our way to Texas and was given a “very warm welcome” (like one of Gwennie’s blog titles) indeed. Rice University was the first college campus that I had visited, so the whole experience was very new for me. I did not know how the tours would work, but after going to one informative session, I eventually caught on. I learned more about the Texas culture from being in a taxi cab ride for about 10 minutes, I remember that we asked for recommendations on where to eat and he said, “You should never ask a skinny person on where to eat, that is the motto around Texas.”

A couple of days later, we landed in Atlanta, Georgia, where we visited famous sites like the Martin Luther King Jr’s Memorial Site and Emory University. Emory’s tour was very similar to Rice’s, except in my opinion, better. Everyone was much more engaged and friendly (I think that group activity really made the difference) and seemed happy around the campus. I was able to see Emory’s claims on emphasizing on how important researching outside of class was. There were libraries everywhere and new creative clubs, activities, and discoveries made by the students themselves! I was really amazed with their progress and ecstatic to walk around the campus to view more of their accomplishments and changes. Before applying to the ILC program, I was completely unaware of Rice and Emory University, and after visiting both of the schools, I have a better idea of what schools I would want to apply to during my senior year for the college applications season.
I sure hope that our friendship (and bracelets) last for a lifetime. (My cohort and I, V's for Vanderbilt!)
Our final destination was at Vanderbilt University. At this point, I felt a little bit homesick after going out for so long, but I knew that this experience was going to be worth it, and I was definitely right. The instance that I walked into my hall, I was greeted by one of the proctors and as confused as I was, I later found out that one of the proctors would be my own residency advisor. My roommate showed up and I asked her if she had participated in this program before, and to my surprise, it was going to be her fifth year (the maximum amount of years that you can participate in the VSA program). Based off of that statement, I knew that this program must have been an extraordinary and fantastic one because there were returners who still came year after year. Each proctor has their own group of around 10 people, so I had to put my social skills to work. I learned that I have become more social and comfortable around others. I am more open to meeting new friends and getting to know them better. Whenever I would see somebody that I did not know around me, I would introduce myself and then ask what class they were taking or if they had been in this program before. Now, I feel like it is a part of my natural instincts to do so.

By the time that I had gotten used to how the system worked at Vanderbilt, I was left with a large group of friends (other than those in my cohort). I learned about the different perspectives on bio-medicine and ethno-medicine (traditional). The first week of class was focused on medical anthropology and the different things that tie into it, like other cultures that would treat diseases like epilepsy, or cultural construct with the use of compliance. This narrows down to parts of the detailed theories of the body: the mindful body, the knowledge of the body, the cultural construction of the body, and the individual body. We learned more about the Hmong and !Kung cultures as examples of traditional medicine. The second week was centered on the stigma of disabilities. The main occurrence was when all of the students were set to a challenged that none of us had ever thought of doing before, being in a wheelchair for 24 hours. I was taught a whole new perception of being disabled without a whole lecture about it, I was able to experience the whole thing and then reflect on it along with the rest of my classmates. The last week was about pharmaceutical sciences, not exactly what I had expected about the topic, but it was good to learn about a new view about the pharmaceutical industry. To watch films on true stories where kids that are still 4 year olds are being diagnosed with bipolar syndrome (these are children that are put on 8 different medications each day).  

As for my Arete classes, I learned how to fence during the first week and more about the art of henna in the second. My fencing instructor was the President of Tennessee’s large association of fencing and he taught me how difficult this sport can be. At first, I had imagined that it was going to be relatively simple, and that I should start a fencing club of my own when I come back to my school. Then, I was completely wrong. This whole sport is difficult strategically and physically. Since I am a small person, when I go against someone who is bigger than me, their sword will reach me better than when I would try to reach for them. In my henna class, I discovered new designs and details about the typical designs that would appear on henna on others. The most basic designs would comprise of swirls, flowers, petals, leaves, and peacocks. I learned how to draw each of those figures and apply it to human skin. My henna teacher is very talented at doing henna, she has done at least 10 weddings ever since she started to do it as a job (from a few years ago) and still does it to this day. I watched her mimic a design from Google images no problem, and found out that her hardest design to imitate was of a tiger’s face. How astounding!
A reposted picture of the Kat(hy, thryn, threrine) crew for fencing. 
Overall, the major changes that I found in me was that I enjoyed reading a lot more, increased my appreciation for writing, and saw myself grow from the challenges that went against me. I saw myself going against the top 1% students from each of their schools and got better from being around them for so long. I was surrounded by the top students and still felt like I was not good enough when compared to them, but this inspired me to try to improve even though I continued to struggle. What helped me the most was all of the experience that I had gained from almost a month's worth of work. This trip has unquestionably forever impacted my life and changed me.
Friendly faces that I could never forget! 
Some of the people that made me feel extremely emotional when they were leaving for departure day. From the East
Coast to West Coast! 

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