30 July 2007

Learning Life

Just recently, My special friend María did something very few students ever do: She paid to learn.

Instead of having mommy and daddy, or Uncle Sam, pay for the dubious privilege of sitting in a classroom filled with buffoons (and students), María took money from her savings and paid for a 5-week stay in the mountains and rain forests of Ecuador, performing health-related clinical and research duties.

This was not a vacation in some Third World resort: This was staying in a sponsor's home, with cross-country travel amidst heavy mudslides, slogging through a rainy jungle to reach distant villages and spending time in the most powerful educational activity there is: doing.

The program is sponsored by Child Family Health International, who's been recruiting pre-med and medical students to support eastern Ecuadorian communities since 1998. CFHI does the same in other countries spanning three continents, focusing on hands-on, direct contact with the people in order to seek major improvement in their health.

When María told Me what she was going to do, I was all for it. But I asked her how many people thought she was nuts for doing it and her reply was the expected "Almost all of them." You're going to Ecuador? To do work on your vacation? And you're going to pay for it? Most of these same people are either stuck in a rut or looking for the limo lane to Easy Street...and thus they are closer to death than the village dwellers of Puya and Mumbai.

María understands that becoming a doctor is much more than theory: It takes the practice of human interaction to truly have a chance at becoming a great doctor. To achieve greatness in any field means taking risks, whether that risk is as physical as fighting hypothermia in a rain-swept jungle or as emotional as seeing "how the other half lives"--and living with them. When both can be done to further your growth and goals, added to the deep satisfaction of helping others, you are going to the ultimate limit of learning: You are living.

What María acquired during her experiences in Ecuador will serve her for life. For the many who complain that what they learn in the classroom they'll never use again, think about this: María's investment will serve her every day of her life. Would you rather have someone pay for you to waste your time--now and in the future--or would you rather pay to learn something of lifelong value?

Your answer will eventually define you, your life and your level of success. María is already on her way.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

1 comment:

Maria M. said...

Ok…now I’m blushing, or maybe “beaming”, as some trekkies would say.

This one I'll comment in spanish (sorry Carol and Don)

Sip, todavía la gente se queda con la boca abierta cuando les digo que me fui a aventurar por el Amazonas. En un campo tan competitivo como lo es la medicina, nunca he sido la estudiante mas brillante del salón (aunque no necesariamente la peor, claro). Especialmente porque no me llevo bien con el como se enseña en el salón de clases. Mientras mis compañeros se enfocan en sacar las mejores notas y las puntuaciones mas sobresalientes en exámenes estandarizados, yo buscaba como acercárme al ámbito clínico, ya sea como observadora o como voluntaria. Pero llegó el momento en que agoté todo lo que podía hacer aquí en la isla y decidí bricar el charco. No al glamour de EEUU, a donde a todos les encanta ir, sino a la complejidad cultural de la sierra andina y del oriente de Ecuador. ¿Por qué? Porque aprendiendo un poco sobre los servicios de salud de un país en desarrollo y observando como lidian con la siempre existente falta de materiales y recursos, uno pone en perspectiva lo que tenemos y como lo desperdiciamos. Además te da la oportunidad de servir. Al menos para mí eso vale mucho.

Me tomó mucho conseguir el dinero para esta experiencia. Quizás por el resto del año tenga que comer directamente de la basura, pero definitivamente no me arrepiento.

Para observar un poco lo que fué mi experiencia en el Amazonas, observen este video de Adam Brownlee de Blue Event Horizon: