What a weird feeling to be home. It was definitely hard at first to process being back in Washington and no longer in Tarija and having had to travel for 30 hours added to that struggle. Having a few delays, sleeping on the floor of the airport in Cochabamba, and getting stopped for an additional security check while passing through customs was added to the last bit of the crazy adventure that was studying abroad. And when I finally got home to Sea-Tac, my mom picked me up and I went to bed shortly after going home. The next morning my life already picked up again as I drove to UW Tacoma and went to work and moved back into Court 17. Life already went “back to normal.”
While life was already moving fast again, I still tried to take some time to reflect on my time abroad. I did so by looking back at photographs, posting on Instagram, and just talking to some of the group about what we missed from Tarija. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am just so grateful. Grateful to have been given the opportunity to go somewhere else in the world to study. Grateful to have been able to observe and learn about global health in a rural healthcare setting. Grateful to see beautiful places and explore a beautiful culture. Overall I am just so grateful for this program and all of the things I saw and experienced.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the world is beautiful and it has so many things to teach you. The different cultures, languages, sights, healthcare, all of it, they all have something to teach you. It’s daunting to decide to leave home for an extended amount of time, to leave all of the familiar, but taking a chance and choosing to immerse yourself in what the world can teach you is a gift. It is a gift to be able to explore the world and explore aspects of yourself, simultaneously. During this program I learned more than just about healthcare in a remote part of Bolivia, I learned more about my identity, about how I function in uncomfortable settings, about navigating group dynamics and spaces, and about overcoming feelings of “otherness.” I reflected a lot on my emotions and from that learned more about how to take the uncomfortable and the uneasiness and turn it into self growth.
My biggest piece of advice for those interested in studying abroad is, go for it! While there can be many reasons why you “shouldn’t” or “can’t” study abroad, if you can find the will and the ways to make it work, then just do it. It’s a privilege to be able to take part in something like this and I promise you’ll learn a lot more than just what the aim of the course is. You’ll learn about yourself and more about the world, and that’ll make you grow in ways you may not have expected. Take the chance if you can, and truly, in the words of the Child Family Health Initiative (CFHI), let the world change you.