Welcome to the 2015 PHAST trip to South Texas! One of the few places left in the continental United States that is currently not experiencing below-freezing (or in many cases sub-zero) temperatures. As a native of Ann Arbor I am no stranger to winter, but having lived in Washington, D.C. during the six years prior to graduate school in I have found a need to re-discover how to embrace all that is winter in Michigan.
Anyway, weather aside, I am looking forward to gaining some hands-on public health practice experience working with PHAST partners. We have spent the past seven weeks diving into the projects, partners, people, and communities we will be working with, as well as pushing ourselves to identify our personal strengths, weaknesses, biases, and experiences and how those play out in teamwork and practice-based settings. This has led to my enhanced understanding about my own tendencies that I have no doubt will assist me on this trip and into the future.
According to my parents, my first words as a baby were “Mommy”, “Daddy”, and “What’s that?” – they knew well before I did that inquisitiveness would be a core part of my personality. And while as students we are often encouraged to ask questions, told “there’s no such thing as a bad question”, I have found through this class and continued life experience that even the most genuine, authentic, and well-meaning questions can often have a more nuanced implication than originally understood or intended.
You may be nodding your head saying, “Well yeah, of course that’s the case” or perhaps you’re wondering, “Where is she going with this? I thought this was about a public health project in Texas….” Well, my project is centered on the facilitation of focus groups, which involves asking a lot of questions. While I am certainly comfortable in that role (see above), I have also learned a lot in the past few weeks about many of the different layers involved in asking a question in this kind of context. Moral of the story – there is a lot of learning to be had, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to do it with this great team of public health students, professionals, and community members.
So stick with us as we pack up the sunscreen and travel to a much warmer climate – there are certain to be some wonderful experiences for us (and by extension you!) in the very near future.