Post-Study Abroad: Part 1 (Harlie in the Dominican Republic)

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Coming back from the most surprising, fun, exciting, liberating trip you will probably ever experience in your life is a very strange feeling. On one hand, all good things must come to an end; I was ready to see my family. Have a routine again. Have a sense of control. Have American food! But on the other, I had spent 9 weeks in blissful sunshine (which cannot be taken for granted when you live in snowy Michigan) and trying a new adventure every weekend. I was having the time of my life with no troubles, no worries, no extreme responsibilities, and ignoring all the baggage I had left behind in the states. I was afraid to return and be bombarded by the weight of “real life”; I thought I would be knocked over by impact. And in a way, I was. Many of my once concrete plans for a future in clinical psychology came tumbling down in my summer studying public health in the Dominican Republic. The beautiful disaster of a crumbling future began when my ideas of health care suddenly did a 180. I began asking myself tough questions I had never even considered before. For example, if you believe everyone deserves health care, how does a system or government realistically pay for it? If it isn’t affordable, how can you reduce costs while retaining quality care? Or how do you decide who receives which level of care? These questions then led me to have extreme self realizations; I cared a great deal more about health care than I realized and was fascinated by health issues plaguing the world, especially in under-resourced areas. In fact, I wanted to be a contributor to change in these areas. How could I sit back and do nothing while millions of families were being torn apart by completely preventable diseases and entirely treatable illnesses? But I didn’t want to just talk about these issues and try to fix them from the back seat; I wanted to be a direct hand in care. I wanted to be a doctor.

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While I had been studying psychology, a subject that I greatly enjoyed for the past three years, I now think it was ultimately only a stepping stone to my true passion; I had been waiting for that ah-ha moment my entire life when I finally knew what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Eventually, I ended up settling on what I enjoyed most when the pressures of time hit and the ah-ha moment didn’t happen like I had expected. I thought psychology was a great career, one that could make me happy and be extremely rewarding, and so I convinced myself that I wasn’t really “settling”. But then the Dominican Republic happened. And I discovered things about myself I could have never even dreamed. And because I believe everything happens for a reason, I came to understand my reason was to use my background in psychology to make me a better doctor and change the world one life at a time. This revelation wasn’t exactly an ah-ha moment like I had hoped, but more of a gradual discovery. One of those times that each day, everything seems the same, but you look back and it’s entirely different.

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