As I prepare to embark on a PHAST trip to the Mississippi Delta, I am overcome with excitement. Although I grew up in the Northeast, I have always loved traveling in the South. The most superficial reason for this is the weather; I am really not built to stand winter (which makes me wonder what I was thinking when I decided to attend school in Michigan). More seriously, there is something about the South that pleases all of my senses: the smell of jasmine in spring, the views of live oak trees arching over the pavement, the warmth of the sun on my face every month of the year, the sound of jazz and blues music (and, yes, even country) coming through the radio, and the taste of food prepared thoughtfully with care. Although I have treasured the few times I was lucky enough to travel abroad, I enjoy traveling within the U.S. just as much. I think we often forget how much diversity exists within our borders. To me, each state feels like its own separate country. Having grown up in the Northeast, gone to undergrad in the South, and now attending grad school in the Midwest (as well as spending a summer in California), I have lived in basically all of the major regions of the U.S., and despite occasionally shocking my northern sensibilities, the South remains my favorite.
I am looking forward to this trip, in particular, because I have never been to the Mississippi Delta. I lived in New Orleans for five years before coming to graduate school and have spent some time in northern Louisiana as well as in some parts of Mississippi (mostly near the Gulf), but from what we’ve discussed in class the Delta seems to have its own unique history and culture that I am eager to learn more about. I am hoping that the interviews we will be conducting during our visit will shed some light on what life in the Delta is like. I hope to gain a better understanding of the region’s history, assets, and challenges. This trip is also significant to me, personally, because it will be my first time working in a public health context. Since my previous employment was outside the public health sphere, I am looking forward to the opportunity to put my studies to use in a professional context. Hopefully the work we do during this trip will also be impactful for the people living in the Delta. I am looking forward to exploring a new part of the country and to gaining practical public health skills. Is it time to go yet?