Tomorrow, fall semester at W&M will begin and the campus will be filled with nervously excited students attending their first day of classes. But, this semester, I will not be one of those students. Although I will still be a nervously excited student, I will not be sharing my summer experiences or my class schedule with my friends while we eat dinner at Sadler. I will not be getting ice cream and walking down Colonial Williamsburg, like I do every year. And, I will not be moving into a dorm and introducing myself to my suite-mates. Instead, I will be in an airport, awaiting my flight to go to India for the semester.
If you had asked me just two months ago what I am planning on doing during the fall semester, I would tell you about my interest in continuing to research and volunteer, and I would list the Biology and Public Health courses I was looking forward to taking. But, if you ask me now, I will tell you that I will be traveling to India to do an independent study through W&M on the functioning of a rural hospital along with an internship for an NGO that works for women and child rights in India.
Within those two months, a lot has changed. While I was working on writing articles for the NGO in India, I was reading and listening to unbelievable truths that had inspired the establishment of a support center for women and children in India. Soon, I developed a desire to learn more about these human rights issues; I began to wonder if I can combine my two primary interests in medicine and human rights by doing an independent study on the issue of the stark healthcare inequality in rural India along with an independent study related to women and child rights issues.
I wanted to know if it is possible for me to remain enrolled at W&M while working on independent studies in India. I began my quest to find an answer at the Dean of Students Office, and within two days, I visited the Reves Center, Academic Advising, and the Charles Center. After speaking with numerous faculty members, I realized that my plan had to be modified for me to optimize my experience in India. William & Mary gives credits only for the academic components of study away, which means that in addition to spending time working at a rural hospital or with the NGO, I would have to read extensive literature every day. In order for me to take 12 credits to reach the full-time status at W&M, I would have to do so much remote academic work that I would not be able to focus on learning from my experiences in India. However, limiting my class work to 6 credits would be the perfect way for me to connect my experiences in India with the information I read in scientific literature. Since I could not remain a full-time student, I decided to take a gap semester to complete an independent study and an internship in India, and the 6 credits will be added to my spring semester. My attempt to understand the feasibility of doing independent studies abroad had quickly turned into my reality of traveling to India to do an independent study and an internship. I had created a personal study abroad program.
So, now I am sitting here packing my suitcases, ensuring that I am not leaving any unfinished work at W&M behind, and planning my first week in India. It is clear that this semester will be unlike any other semester at W&M, and I am so excited for my time in India to begin. I will be blogging weekly about my experiences in India, and I am looking forward to sharing with you the lessons that I learn and the mistakes that I make.