Sawubona (Hello)! I’m currently abroad on the School of International Training (SIT)’s Community Health and Social Policy Program in South Africa. I chose this program because instead of traditional study abroad where you take classes at a foreign university, SIT is a program based on experiential learning. This morning, our Academic Director discussed with us exactly what “experiential learning” is. Instead of straight lectures, it’s a combination of concrete experiences, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. Basically, this means that we will be integrating trips to museums, NGO’s, hospitals, and having discussions on-site at various places around South Africa. To culminate our trip we are each required to do an Independent Study Project (ISP), which completes the experimentation portion of SIT.
The ISP is where I get to delve into the research project of my choice. We spend the last four weeks of our program devoted to completing research in the field. Our choices include a 3 week intensive hospital shadowing, community surveys, or anything that can help us gather the data we need.
When I was training to be an EMT my freshman year at GW, I discovered that my favorite topic was delivering babies, a topic many EMT’s shied away from. To combine my pre-med interests with the issues in South Africa, I have initially planed to explore the difference in rates of passing HIV from mother to newborn in private versus public clinics for my ISP. Although women in South Africa are offered HIV testing and counseling, I am curious to see how many of them utilize it. Also, I’m interested in detecting disparities of care among private and public clinics and getting to the root of those disparities. SIT has provided me the opportunity to conduct a research on a topic that is not only relevant in South Africa, but also can help me develop my knowledge on pre/postnatal care.
This topic affords me the unique opportunity to continue similar research back in DC. After what I have learned so far in my public health courses, I understand that HIV/AIDS is a severe problem in DC. In fact, DC has one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in the United States. When I come back to home, I hope to extend my study abroad research project into a comparative study of the rates in South Africa versus those in DC.
However, after just a few days so far on the program, I’ve discovered so many other potential topics; the options seem endless! As we haven’t fully started classes yet and haven’t begun our homestays, I’m keeping an open mind as to what direction I’ll take my research project. I can’t wait to see what else South Africa has in store!