When I first thought of this title, I was really impressed with myself. So, I decided to share my ingenious and creative title with my roommate, thinking that he would appreciate its delicate, simplistic complexity, whatever that means. He said, “it seems like a regular title lol.” That was when I realized it would be perfect for this post, because the title provides the regularity that the content may be missing.
“Hey Harsha! What classes are you taking next semester?” “I didn’t register for any,” I respond with a straight face, resulting in a very awkward exchange of facial expressions. I immediately reveal my gap semester, and the conversation usually ends with mutual feelings of excited uneasiness caused by my non-traditional gap semester. For me, the excitement superseded the uneasiness until my rec center membership was terminated in June. I was no longer considered a W&M student. I eventually paid for a summer membership, but the thought of restricted access was frightening, especially since I was still doing summer research at W&M. It was unsettling to think that I was un-enrolled from a school where I wanted to spend four years at. But, my anxiety soon subsided when I considered the positive impact this experience could have on me.
This semester, I am taking a leave of absence to conduct an independent study on the daily operations of a hospital serving rural Andhra Pradesh, India. I lived in India for the first ten years of my life, and my experiences and education there have propelled me on a path to become a pre-medical student, and, hopefully, go into medicine. These experiences have also motivated me to think about practicing in India as a small part of my future, and, for me to make that happen, I need to learn more about the Indian health care system. To me, study abroad programs didn’t fit the bill. I knew that I wanted to learn extensively about the daily workings of an Indian hospital, something that study abroad programs did not offer. My decision to take a gap semester was still a difficult one to make, since a break in my academic record may not be optimal for my future endeavors. But, there is one important reason to leave: to understand how a rural Indian hospital functions using ethnographic research methods (observation and interviewing).
Headed to India soon, I hope to encounter stories and accumulate experiences that are not only eye-opening but also fun to share. If you are interested in reading more, my “India-blog series” will begin the first week of September and continue weekly until late November.