While I prepare to participate in a week long public health practice field experience in South Texas, I am particularly struck by how many surprises I have encountered thus far. On the first day of class, we were asked by our instructor to write down a list of words that came to mind when we thought of Texas. As you might imagine, words such as, “conservative,” “guns,” “cowboys,” and “cacti” quickly made the list. After making that list, my stereotypical view of Texas was promptly shattered when I learned that the area where we will do our work in the Rio Grande
Valley is anything but stereotypical Texas. The area is heavily Democratic leaning, the median age is approximately 30-years-old, and a whopping 90% of the regional population is comprised of Latinos! After this first interesting surprise, as a class, we were asked by the instructor to rank our preference for three possible projects we could work on while in Texas. I eagerly anticipated which particular I would be assigned, crossing my fingers, toes and eyes. At our next class meeting, I was very surprised to learn that three projects had been cut down to two, so instead of assigning us to a particular project, the instructor told us to simply sign up on the board under one of the two projects. And that was IT. After a week of gut-wrenching anticipation, I was happily assigned to my first choice, the Community Health Assessment project for Hidalgo County along with five other students! Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, another surprise occurred when the instructor unexpectedly told our group what exactly we’d be doing in Texas. We even had an impromptu drum role for this occasion! She told us that we would be recruiting college students to fill out a health survey for the county health assessment. Then, we practiced our recruiting pitches and mine, needless to say, needs just a-l-i-t-t-l-e polishing. After all of these surprises during preparation for the project, I have a feeling the best ones are yet to come when we arrive in Texas!