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“There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life less than the one you are capable of living.” -Nelson Mandela
Prior to this trip, I had never left the United States and I decided that I wanted to go to the most unique country possible for my study abroad. I didn’t want to “play it small” and go to a country I knew a lot about and Mandela’s advice certainly prevailed in this case. I had the time of my life.
Less than 24 hours ago, I was in the middle of 36 hour travel and 22 hour flight time to make my way back to the States. This summer, I was able to travel to Cape Town, South Africa for a two-week History Study Abroad with Dr. Kenneth Wilburn. I can honestly say that this trip was one of the most inspiring and transformative educational experiences that I’ve ever encountered.
From taking the somber tour of Robben Island, to hiking to the top of Table Mountain, South Africa is a place to challenge your mind, body, and spirit. I learned so much about South Africa’s history, the fight of Nelson Mandela and his comrades to form a democratic South Africa, the social issues that have been overcome, and the ones that still continue in this country. Their problems are not so different from ours, or the rest of the world’s, but are unique in that they are so fresh with Apartheid officially ending barely two decades ago.
I was quite fortunate to be on a trip that was so well organized and so small (only two students). This allowed us to have some incredible experiences without feeling like a group of tourists all day. Our travels took us to Robben Island; a preschool in the Langa Township; the top of Table Mountain; a cottage in the middle of a game reserve; a safari with lions, rhinos, and giraffes; a local pub during an intense South Africa versus Ireland rugby game; and a cage where we were nose-to-nose with great white sharks.
The highlight of my trip was our 15-mile hike up Table Mountain, though. The challenging, five-hour hike was well worth the view from the top. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all learned lessons in perseverance and the rewards that come with finishing the climb. I’d also like to mention just how beautiful the entire city of Cape Town is. We traveled to many different parts of the city and there was not a single place that was not breathtaking in its own way. Whether it was mountains, beaches, or wildlife, we were mesmerized the entire trip by the beauty of Cape Town.
As Dr. Wilburn says, I will always live in the shadow of Table Mountain. I hope to visit the Mother City again sometime soon but I am so grateful to EC Scholars and the Honors College for giving me the opportunity to “play it big” and visit this wonderful country for the first time.
By Kayla Daughtry, junior EC Scholar
Hello everyone! My name is Kayla Daughtry, and I am an EC Scholar who majors in neuroscience. Although my line of study focuses mainly on sciences and medicine, I am incredibly interested in world cultures and religions, but have felt that I don’t have the time to dedicate to such study. Luckily for me, the perfect opportunity arose, and I made the decision to travel to India for five weeks this summer with Dr. Derek Maher to do Religious Studies research about the Buddhist Holy Land.
Stepping out of the airport in New Delhi was the hugest culture (and heat) shock that I have ever experienced. Throughout my time in India, I was constantly in awe of the differences in infrastructure and quality of life in comparison to the United States. During the trip, we traveled to various sites that had importance in the Buddha’s life and teachings, including Sarnath, Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Shravasti, and Nalanda. My research was done in the Spring semester in an honors seminar, and I specialized in the place of the Buddha’s death, Kushinagar.
It was such an interesting experience to perform extensive research and create a plan for documentation for a location that is unfathomable from halfway across the world. Once in Kushinagar, as well as at all of the other holy sites, we photographed, documented, and made observations about the monuments that were placed to commemorate the importance of the life of the Buddha. Dr. Maher taught lessons and told stories at each site that provided us with more information about Buddhism and all that occurred in the locations during the time of the Buddha and what has occurred afterward. It was so neat to walk in places where such an influential religious figure spent time and taught the foundations of what we now know as Buddhism. We even got to spend time meditating beneath the tree where the Buddha was enlightened! Our trip was part of the first steps of the research project and the hopes for the future are to create a huge database for religious studies students to utilize for highly accurate information about Buddhism and the life of the Buddha.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was meeting a female monk in Kushinagar (pictured left), who took me and two other students to the Buddhist temple for women that she is building all on her own. She expressed to us that her goal is to combat the oppression of women’s freedom in India, and has already accomplished a by being such a powerful presence and enforcing her own right to buy land, build, create, worship, and become ordained as a monk, which are all incredible feats, especially in such a patriarchal society. My eyes were truly opened on that day, to the extreme oppression that Indian women face in aspects of life that I take for granted.
In addition to Buddhist holy sites, our group visited New Delhi, Varanasi (the holy city on the Ganges River), Agra (where the Taj Mahal is located), and McLeod Ganj in Dharamsala which is positioned in the lesser Himalayas. In these places I learned of so many things, such as Hindu traditions and worship, ancient Mughal tradition, Tibetan medicine and arts, human rights activism for Tibetans and Tibetan refugees who have come to India, Tibetan occupation by China, and the crisis that the country faces in attempting to preserve its culture and humanity.
In just five short weeks, I have seen, learned, felt, and experienced a vastly different culture in all of its beauty and difficulty. These experiences have made me feel angry and sad at times, but also the most elated and joyful that I have even been in this lifetime. These emotions, paired with so much new knowledge, have widened my eyes and greatly impacted my view of the world, cleared my mind and allowed my heart to be entirely full of love, increased my sense of international activism, and given me an urge to go back to India as soon as I recover from the 24 hours that it took to travel back to the U.S.
I would like to sincerely thank the Honors College and EC Scholar program for providing me with this opportunity, the friends I made on the trip for keeping me sane, and Dr. Derek Maher for being such an amazing mentor and teaching me the most valuable lesson: everything is subject to change… the ability to adapt is what matters most.
Global Health and Innovation Conference: Cutting Edge Solutions to the World’s Most Pressing Health Problems
By Sahiti Marella, junior in the Honors College
The Global Health and Innovation Conference held annually at Yale University is the world’s largest global health conference, hosting more than 2,000 attendees from more than 55 countries. This conference is made possible by Unite for Sight, a leading nonprofit organization that promotes equal access to health care globally.
This past April, I had the opportunity to attend and be part of a movement focused on positive health related change across the world. The Global Health and Innovation Conference not only brought together leading experts from all branches in the field, but it also was a gathering ground for international global health leaders, healthcare professionals, graduate representatives, and students. There were a number of attention-grabbing topics addressed through various sessions, panels, and discussions. I was able to sit in on presentations given by founders of major health focused nonprofits, listen to pitches for cutting-edge global health innovations, and network with individuals who shared a common passion for improving our current global health status.
Attending this conferences was one of the best decisions I’ve made since coming to college. For longer than I can remember, I’ve wanted to become a physician, but recently I began questioning if there was something more. I was asking myself “could I take it one step further?” Being a native of India, my family members were only a few among hundreds of thousands of individuals who succumbed to the difficulty of a less than ideal healthcare system. There are a number of people working towards making sure marginalized populations are able to receive adequate medical assistance, yet the problem is incredibly persistent. How do we begin to address and tackle huge problems such as lack of access to healthcare or high incidences of communicable disease?
By attending the Global Health and Innovation conference, I was able to dip my toes into a world that fell at the intersection of providing healthcare and developing and implementing cutting-edge solutions to the largest health problems. I met individuals who were doctors or surgeons but they were also able to take their knowledge on one specific issue and pioneer a solution that addresses the problem in a more effective manner.
Whether you were a student, an admissions director for a top-notch graduate program, a physician, or a CEO of a major nonprofit organization, the Global Health and Innovation Conference was a hub for idea sharing and development on any scale or platform. Everyone in attendance came together to celebrate passion, drive, and vision to take a step forward in global health change. I was able to network with some of the most unique individuals with amazing stories and passions and I left Yale feeling truly inspired.
This conference taught me the importance of not just doing research but taking the knowledge and putting it forward in a way that benefits society. There is always more to learn and more ways to improve and expand on what is already out there, you just need the right tools. I learned that whether its through an unexpected connection, an inspiring idea, or thought provoking conversation, the beauty of research and innovation is that you never know what can help you to grow and expand your work into something that really impacts a population. I encourage everyone, regardless of where your passions lie, to take advantage of every opportunity and every open door because you never know where either of those can lead you.