“Wow! I’m proud of you, kid” said my older cousin in sheer excitement after hearing the news of my upcoming travels. What an honor for a kid from the south-side of Chicago to be taking an international trip. Conversations with family members who never left the country are filled with concern, happiness, and unanswerable questions. They all want to know why and how a kid from the south-side got the opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe– someplace they know nothing about outside of anti-communist rhetoric. I am honestly quite nervous to travel to across the world for the first time, and I hope my excitement leaves me more optimistic than anxious. This moment feels so surreal, and I don’t yet have the proper words to describe exactly how I’m feeling. These past few days have been very hectic between preparing for the trip, finalizing responsibilities on campus, and trying to connect with friends and family before I depart. I already feel the weigh of this trip as I imagine how far I’ll be away from my family. I hope that I can find small things and people that make me feel like home away from home.
I am extremely excited to find out what’s in store for me this summer. My goals for the summer include: 1) fully engaging in my coursework so that I can get a better understanding of how mental health structures are constructed locally and federally, 2) acquiring extended language skills, 3) reflecting on ways to contribute to the field of mental health post-graduation, 4) experiencing the authenticity of places that I’ve never been, and 5) enjoying myself.