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    Posted March 17, 2014 by
    Moshi, Tanzania
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    At the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro

    Karibuni! That means welcome in Swahili, a language spoken in a select number of countries in East Africa. It is the national language of Tanzania, the country in which I have been living and working since August of 2013. As a biological engineer undergraduate at Cornell University, there weren’t many opportunities to study abroad that fit into our strict curriculum. I, however, was extremely passionate about the intersection of biological engineering and global health and desperately wanted to find a way to experience living in another country and assimilate into that particular culture. I participated in the Tanzania Summer Program offered by the Global Health department at Cornell, and the two months that I was able to spend abroad opened my eyes to the world outside of where I had grown up. I found that I felt more at home outside of the United States more than I had ever imagined possible. I had the opportunity to participate in traditional activities from cultures that have been maintained for thousands of years. I learned dances and ate foods that carry with them more history than the entirety of my home town. Being immersed in a culture as rich as that of Northern Tanzania gave me a sense that I am a part of something so much bigger than just myself.
    My two months in Tanzania was not able to fulfill the wanderlust that had been building inside of me, despite what my parents may have wished. Within a year of graduating from Cornell, I found myself on my way back to Moshi, Tanzania. This time, I was returning with a research position at a clinical diagnostics laboratory doing research I am extremely passionate about. This opportunity was through the Whitaker International Fellowship, a fellowship that enables biomedical engineers to do research outside of the United States. Going into it, I was so excited to finally have the ability to live in a foreign country for a longer period of time. I have now been working in Tanzania for almost 9 months, and would not have given up this opportunity for anything. I am working at the Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute, where we are trying to develop a more effective diagnostic for pediatric tuberculosis.
    I have grown an incredible amount as an individual since I arrived at the Kilimanjaro International Airport almost 9 months ago. I have come to learn who I am on such a deep level that my identity is no longer embedded entirely in my surroundings. I have learned what it means to work in a cross cultural environment, and how to work effectively in those kinds of teams. Lastly, and probably most importantly, my time studying and working abroad has significantly expanded my worldview. I am no longer living in a bubble, which I believe many people throughout the world find themselves in. Instead, I have learned what it means to be a global citizen, something which is highly important as our world becomes more and more internationally focused. I strongly recommend spending time outside of the United States, whether as a student or young professional, for every US citizen, as it teaches us lessons that we cannot easily learn on our own. I know that I will forever be grateful for the two experiences I have been able to have living in Tanzania, where every day I wake up to the view of Mt. Kilimanjaro peeking out from the clouds.
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