I’ve been in Texas for a few days now, and it’s like being immersed in a different country. The Understanding Obamacare Implementation project that I’ve been working on with Amanda and Aparna has been great. We had a goal of 25 interviews with healthcare navigators this week, and today, our last day of interviewing, we had 26 interviews. It’s been very interesting hearing their thoughts about ACA enrollment, as well as unique challenges that the area faces. I thought it was neat that we got to hear from both trained navigators and licensed insurance agencies, both of which had very different experiences with the enrollment process.
In addition to working on our project, we went to the Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge, South Padre Island, the University of Texas Pan America, and the University of Texas Brownsville. The only time I’ve been to Mexico, I was on a cruise ship, so it was fascinating to hear about the everyday travel of the bridge. The border patrol officer who talked to our group explained that some people travel back and forth across the border 4-5 times a day. People live in one county and work or go to school in another or their children go to school in a different country. These people have to go through the border security multiple times a day, which astounds me. It reminds me of my family crossing the Iowa-Minnesota border. I grew up in a town in Iowa that was under a 5-minute drive to Minnesota, and both of my parents work in Minnesota. As a family, we would go to Minnesota to shop, eat, and for entertainment, so really it’s the same thing for these people here- just it’s a different country, not state and there’s a much longer process to cross the border. There’s no wait to cross the state borders, nobody waiting to search your vehicle, or people with radiation detectors monitoring your entrance into the state.
Aparna, Amanda, and I had the chance to explore the University of Texas Brownsville campus before the tour of the bridge. The campus is different than Michigan’s campus. We probably stuck out like sore thumbs as we walked around in dresses and shorts as the locals were bundled up in sweaters and long pants- the weather was cooler for them that day, mid seventies. The architecture on UT Brownsville had archways and open corridors with brightly painted walls, tiled ceilings, and fountains precisely placed in green courtyards. Although the campus is gorgeous, I just have to remind myself that Michigan’s campus is equally beautiful-just in a different way. I’ve enjoyed my time here in Texas, and I’ve learned a lot about the South Texas culture, semi-structured interviews, and applied public health.