The most important reasons that I initially decided to join the Global Health in Armenia program were an opportunity to build my personal capacity as a healthcare professional and unique cultural experiences in a country that I have never been to. Growing up in another country before coming to the U.S., I have always been interested in the differences in the culture, the health system, as well as public health issues between the two countries. The meaning of “building personal capacity” to me, therefore, not only includes essential professional and research skills as a pharmacy student, but also entails growing a skillset and being exposed to an experience that I can may one day use to provide a similar service for my home country, Taiwan. I believe that traveling and experiencing a foreign culture not only enrich one’s life in a beautiful way, but also provide inspirations and deeper understandings about oneself and one’s own values. I found this particular true when I arrived at this country and each challenges and surprises just gave me new revelations and understandings about my capability and limitations.
I have also been contemplating about the purpose of global health, the reason of traveling half way across the globe to another country and conduct services. In the end, I concluded that the essence of service is the same everywhere. Challenges in helping a non-English speaking diabetic patient in Navajo reservation may be surprisingly similar to that of a patient in rural Armenia. However, sometimes unexpected opportunities present themselves in the most interesting way, such as our Armenia Global Health program. Sometimes, it takes a change of setting, a dramatic “culture shock”, and that process of adaptation to create a humble mindset to accept and appreciate the cultural differences, no matter where people are from. In fact, I found it the most interesting to observe the culture and the interactions between the Armenian people on the street and in the markets; the obvious and subtle differences and similarities from cultures that I am familiar with, both American and Taiwanese, were both entertaining and inspiring. In a way, it motivates me to discover more about and sympathize with the people of Armenia. In the end, I found that to be the most critical and core characteristic to be a healthcare professional: to have human sympathy and a humble attitude equally regardless of whom you are serving.
In conclusion, I find this program to be a unique opportunity to learn, to explore, and to serve in an amazing country with colorful history and people. With a mindset of making this an experience of a lifetime, I plan to work and play to the fullest in the next three weeks!