Hi everyone! My name is Lindsay Ruhlin and I am a junior at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. I major in Environmental Policy, Institutions, and Behaviors with a concentration in Health and Environmental Policy. I also double major in Public Health.
Today I am leaving to take part in Peter Guarnaccia's Culture and Community Health Program in Oaxaca, Mexico. Studying abroad is something I have always wanted to do ever since I can remember and it is still hard to believe that today is finally the day. During the program I will take 2 courses, Medical Anthropology and Medical Spanish. This program is considered an International Service Learning Program (ISL) therefore we will be volunteering at local health facilities within the community. I have been placed into the Equine Therapy Center. Here horses are used to service therapy to children with different physical and mental disabilities. I am very excited for this since I love children and physical therapy has always been an interest of mine.
While in Oaxaca we will be living with local families. When we are not going to class or working we will be able to explore the city. We also have planned trips on the weekends to different historic sites and outside villages. 11 Rutgers students including myself are taking part in this program. We are a little separated right now in different airports but soon we will all be together heading to Oaxaca!
It is hard to believe that this day is finally here. I don't think it will really hit me until I arrive in Mexico and meet my homestay family. I am anxious, nervous, and excited right now. While I may have a feel for what I will be doing and I know that I probably cannot even imagine the experience I will have. My biggest worry is my lack of Spanish skills. I did take 4 years while in high school but I don't know how much will come back to me. I am thankful that we will have a Spanish class while there and hopeful that it will come back to me quickly. I believe that I will be able to get the most out of the experience when I can interact and communicate with locals as much as possible. Awkward interactions between people who speak different languages make me a little nervous. I know that I will probably be fine with it and it will all work out.
It does seem a little strange that I will not be back in the states until the end of July. I will definitely miss home but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity which I cannot pass up. Hopefully by the end of the journey Oaxaca will feel like another home to me.
I hope to get a lot out of this program. I will be fully immersed in the Oaxacan lifestyle and hope to learn as much about the culture as possible. Learning about another way of life is fascinating to me . I am not sure what it is that I am interested in within the public health field so maybe this will be able to point me in a direction and open my eyes to new opportunities which I didn't know existed. I do have an interest in global health and feel that this program is perfect to learn how culture and health interact in another way of life. I also plan to learn a lot about myself during my time in Oaxaca. I know I will be pushed and challenged while in Oaxaca and will definitely have to step out of my US comfort zone. I see this is a great opportunity for me to grow and learn both about myself and the world around me.
This journey would not be possible without a lot of people. I would like to thank my friends and family for all of their love and support. I would also like to thank my advisers and professors at Rutgers for encouraging me to take the leap and participate in this experience. Also very important, I would like to thank SEBS International Programs for providing me with the scholarship and making this program possible for me.
Adios for now!