English 101 and my study abroad experience

As I write my last blog post, I can’t help but reflect on the course as a whole and what I’ve learned. One of the major problems discussed during class was the negative effects and results that derive from medical voluntourism. Before going on my trip to Ghana, I knew that the trip would consist of me participating in research and interacting with the people in the communities I visited. I was required to go to orientation and learn about what to expect when visiting this country. I was also required to take this online course and be certified in the understandings of extramural research. The online course was required for everyone going on the trip to understand the importance of “protecting human research participants.” Looking back, I can see why Professor Muench expected us to do all these things because our actions can mean good, but cause more harm to the people. Going to Ghana has proven to be one of the best experiences in my life and happy to see now that I wasn’t one of those people going in hopes of getting hands on experience on the people without proper training. Although I eventually plan on working in the medical field, I learned just as much interacting with the people living in these different communities. I was able to tie back what I saw and experienced from each village to major issues that deal with sanitation, urbanization, and neglected tropical diseases. From this course, I was able to reflect on my previous actions and ideas I carried with me throughout the trip. Going to Ghana, I was given the opportunity to learn from the people just as much as they could learn from me. Professor Muench did a great job instilling in our heads that the Ghanians aren’t below us and the theme of interdependence was brought up numerous times throughout the trip. Looking back, I realized that Ghana taught me just as much about myself and what I want to do in the future as far as working in the medical field. Ghana wasn’t the type of study abroad in which I searched for saviordom. I learned just as much if not more from exploring the country and interacting with the people than I would have if I went with a quest for experience or the pursuit of an emotional high. Going to Ghana through the biology department at SUNY Geneseo, I observed the community’s actual needs and had to reflect as to why people were living the way they were. Although Professor Muench does a great job at avoiding to display this “white savior complex,” there are still other programs and organizations out there that will advocate and represent medical voluntourism in a positive light instead of focusing on the harm that comes with it.

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