I was initially inspired to travel with a purpose while visiting my college roommate in Costa Rica while she was in the Peace Corps. I got the travel bug after studying abroad during college and had taken various trips after I graduated, however visiting my friend and talking with her fellow Peace Corps volunteers gave me a desire to do something more meaningful with my travels. I debated between volunteering in South Africa or Nepal through Greenheart Travel, and even though it sounds cliché, I was just drawn to Nepal. There was no clear reason why I made that choice; I just knew I was meant to go to Nepal.
Experiencing other cultures has caused me to reflect on my culture, beliefs, and how I grew up as well as provided many great learning experiences: all of which, I believe, are essential for personal growth. Maintaining a desire to experience and an open mind towards other cultures will be integral for my future career, as I hope to pursue international humanitarian work.
The process of deciding to go to graduate school was actually quite backwards; I discovered the program after deciding that I wanted to move to Boston. I studied biochemistry in undergrad and have always been interested in nutrition, however the policy aspect to the program will most likely direct my career in a less scientific and more humanitarian path than I would have chosen before. Although volunteering didn’t directly cause this decision, my time in Nepal laid the foundation for me to make the change. Specifically, it gave me first-hand experience with people who were suffering from malnutrition and re-ignited my desire to directly help people through my career.
I think by spending an extended period of time there and becoming accustomed to life in Nepal, somehow the problems people face there became personal to me. I couldn’t just leave and not do anything about it.
I don’t really have a mantra or quote that inspires me to get out of my comfort zone, but this one by Wendell Berry is comforting to me after I’ve made the leap:
“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.”
I would say that although traveling may set you back in a career, the personal growth that is possible through travel is worth so much more than career achievements. To me though, personal growth and fulfillment is immensely more important and rewarding than any career achievements could be.
Volunteering has led me to participate in a summer internship in Nepal where I have worked for Action Contre la Faim, analyzing data and writing a report for a nutrition intervention they have implemented to decrease the prevalence of acute malnutrition. This internship has helped me decide to pursue a career in international humanitarian work after graduating.
Yes! My volunteer experience in Nepal played an important role in the personal statement for my grad school application as it was one of the main causes for desiring the change in my career.