I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida—a sunny, southern city just 2 hours north of the place that stressed and sunburnt tourists dub “The Happiest Place on Earth.” I was in fifth grade when the Esteemed Graduating Class of Julington Creek Elementary School was to go on a class field trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom—very Florida, I know! Expedition Everest, Disney’s brand new roller coaster at the time, was all the gossip amongst the eleven year-olds. It was the tallest mountain in all of Disney World. It went backwards. Who would be brave enough to ride it?
Wanting to be fully prepared for the challenge, I spent weeks researching the ride; I read statistics about its height and speeds, learned about the Yeti supposedly hiding inside the mountain, and even watched YouTube videos in an attempt to learn each twist and turn of the ride before I was strapped in. The morning of the trip, one of my sisters even slipped a “good luck” note under my bedroom door. You could say I was a pretty cool fifth grader.
Preparing for the Summer in South Asia Fellowship feels a little bit like the twenty-year-old version of tackling Expedition Everest: I am “strapped in,” equipped with all the knowledge I’ve been able to pack inside my mind and an incredible amount of support, yet somehow I know that the experience will be more than I’m capable of understanding just yet. The simultaneous feeling of surreal, immeasurable excitement and gut-wrenching nerves is indescribable—perhaps because I’ve never experienced anything just like it.
Rewinding to October… I stumbled across the Summer in South Asia Fellowship while scrolling through MCompass after a life-changing study abroad experience in Grenoble, France. The flexibility of the program really appealed to me— I’m a premedical student passionate about anthropology and women’s health, so the possibility of adapting a program to fit all of these interests seemed like a dream. The opportunity to travel to India instantly captured my attention, as well. As a ballet dancer, I’ve always admired the energy and precision of Bollywood and classical Indian dance. As an Anthropology major, I’m fascinated by the country’s diverse cultures, religions, languages, and breadth. After seeing a heartbreaking video about infant malnutrition in developing countries in my Childbirth and Culture class, I was inspired.
I will be working with the Foundation for Mother and Child Health (FMCH) in Mumbai. The organization provides both intensive medical care to severely malnourished infants and nutritional education to local mothers. My final project will focus on the uniformity and effectiveness of FMCH’s dissemination of nutritional advice information to two local clinics. I’m really looking forward to learning more about the different perspectives of those involved.
Despite the hours spent applying, preparing, researching, learning… it all still doesn’t feel like real life just yet. It’s pretty surreal that I’ll be flying to the other side of the world in just under 2 months…