Ever since I was little I have been writing in journals. I knew as I aged I could look back in hindsight and reflect on the pages that documented my memories. A typical journal entry would read as a fun day around my hometown in New Jersey. For example, I wrote about the hot summer days at Pier Village Beach and the thrills of going on various rides at Six Flags Great Adventure. Fast forward a couple years and now my journal entries reflect on the places I explore in Philadelphia and the social and professional connections I am making at Temple University. However, my latest journal entries are about the experience I am about to embark on to Jamaica. Like journals, blogs more or less work in the same fashion. Once I return home to the U.S., I anticipate that I will reread my blog posts and experience all sorts of emotions that contradict each other: happy to be home…but sad to leave a place that became a second home, and relieved to be back in a country that I know like the back of my hand…but already yearning for more cultural assimilation in Jamaica.
Currently, I am experiencing the following emotions such as excitement, anxiety, and curiosity. I am excited to travel outside of the U.S. for my first time, anxious to take on the variety of unknown experiences, and curious to understand another society’s culture. As I feel these emotions I ask myself, “How will traveling to a rural area change my current perspectives…how will I deal with the initial culture shock… will Jamaicans like me?” I try to answer my internal thoughts by utilizing the people and resources around me.
On March 18, I took my very first plane ride to Pittsburgh for the Vira I. Heinz (VIH) Women In Global Leadership Conference. I was proud to represent Temple University as the VIH scholarship recipient because those who selected me believed that, as a woman, I have what it takes to lead in and out of my country. That recognition alone inspires me to act as a leader every day. As one of our pre-departure assignments, I interviewed an international student. I reached out to a student from Budapest. I learned so much about Dmitrij – especially about his plan to conquer his long term goals while abroad in the U.S. and the shifts in perspectives since he arrived.
Also, I spoke to members of The Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness (SOCA). Although I do not identify as Caribbean, they happily welcomed me at their meeting. I enjoyed hearing them discuss social, political, economic, and cultural issues that occur within the islands. They also shared with me their favorite dishes, secret hot spot locations, and the terminology that Jamaicans frequently use.
After speaking to various people, I feel more comfortable about interacting with a new population and environment. I learned that Dmitrij was experiencing the same emotions as me and the advice I received from the members of SOCA helps me feel more knowledgeable of every day life in Jamaica. In addition, my participation in VIH Conference prepared me for the global challenges I may face abroad. In a sense, I feel lucky to have all of these people and resources preparing me, but I know it is my hard work and professional relationships that got me here. I can not wait to extend my work and relationships in Jamaica.