My name is Qian Kun Tan and I am a junior at Northwestern studying Biological Sciences and Asian American Studies. This summer, I will be studying abroad in Mexico City, on the Public Health in Mexico program. Being able to learn abroad is one of the most rewarding experiences in a lifetime. It provides the chance to place yourself in the context of the world, and to form genuine connections with humans and cultures vastly different than yourself.
I specifically chose this program because of the country and the focus. Mexico is a country that borders our country, but for a country so close and vital to the story of America, how much do we really know about it? That is what I want to learn. What triggered my interest in this program specifically is a class I took last quarter, called Nutritional Anthropology. It opened my eyes to how nutrition is obtained worldwide, and the multilayered impact that aberrant nutritional practices and access can have on health. I believe that to critically understand and help people, we need to understand and acknowledge the places they are connected to. Study abroad provides that necessary on-the-ground approach. The program also provided a wonderful pre-departure workshop. It allowed us to experience and learn various angles of theoretical and practical concepts and applications regarding obesity and nutrition, such as visiting pocket gardens in Little Village. It brought me out of my zone, and into unfamiliar territory that I was able to learn more about, think critically about, and make connections to my everyday life and environment. That is also what I hope to get out of the Public Health in Mexico program.
The other intriguing aspect for me about this program is the chance to live with a host family and a chance to learn Spanish again! Spanish has always been such a beautiful language to me, and its presence is so large and important in the US, so I’m excited to have another chance at it. Even better, it will be amazing to be living with a host family, because interacting with native residents is the best way to learn the language, the culture, and the people. I want to make those genuine connections with people who have had different experiences, because that is the best way to gain knowledge, to learn how to care, and to develop a sense of altruism no matter where you are. I hope that studying abroad will bring me new perspectives on people, culture, health, and life. And I hope it will support the values that I hold dear, and inspire me to act upon those values in the larger community. I’m both excited and worried, hopeful and anxious. Being in a new environment will always be challenging, so being able to adapt and learn to love are my biggest priorities going into the program.