Groggy-eyed and caffeine-deprived, I’m predicting, the Texas group will be meeting at the airport early Sunday morning. I have already packed my luggage, making sure to include my PHAST t-shirt, and checked and re-checked my bus/flight/work itinerary. I’m ready to start this adventure.
Our journey, however, really began in early January, when we started familiarizing ourselves with our projects and the health issues facing the South Texas region. Preparation for our spring break trip has essentially been a mini course in border health. We have had multiple internal project meetings, participated in phone calls with our project leads, had an engaging meeting with Dr. Suad Ghaddar, the Director of the South Texas Border Health Disparities Center at UTPA, and watched a documentary about colonias. Each of us wrote about the culture shock we expect to face and composed literature reviews to better understand our projects.
We have prepared as much as possible, but the joy of any trip lies in the unexpected events, the unanticipated mental connections, the “Aha!” moments, and the times that make us question what we know. These are the moments in which we will learn and grow as public health professionals.
I’m ready to put into practice the public health knowledge I have been learning over the past year, as are my peers, I’m sure. What may be most important, though, are the lessons we didn’t expect to learn and the skills we didn’t know we would gain.