It was finally my last day in Vietnam. The night before, I went to dinner with my research team and medical students to celebrate the successful conclusion of the data collection phase of the research study. We laughed over our shared experienced and wished we had more time to be together. Packing my bags alone in my dorm room, it finally set in; I was leaving. The once foreign country was now my adopted home. After my final goodbyes, I boarded my airplane and flew home. I had a chance to reflect on this amazing opportunity.
I traveled from early May through August 1st. In the three month period, I spent time in four different countries and took 10 flights to eventually travel one full rotation around the world. Coming home to my friends and family was something I looked forward to. Everyone wanted to hear stories of my travels and the results of the research. But it took time to get back into the routine of being home.
Everyone talks about the impact of culture shock when living in a foreign country. Not many people discuss the feeling of reverse culture shock of returning to your own. I became so accustomed to translating unfamiliar languages and speaking to non-native English speakers, I picked up my own foreign accent. In Vietnam, personal space is not as revered as in America and I found myself having to physically stop myself from standing too close to other people in lines. The biggest reverse culture shock came when I was sitting in the break room with my co-workers at the hospital. Everyone sat awkwardly across from each other, too lost in their cell phones to acknowledge one another and silence filled the air. I longed for the laughter and joy of sitting with my newfound friends in Vietnam, Cambodia and Uganda without a phone in sight.
My involvement with the research in Vietnam did not conclude with my departure from the country. Returning home, I continued with statistical analysis and preparing the results for publication. I continue to maintain a dialogue with the HMU research team to ensure shared input throughout the process. Over the duration of my practicum, I was able to apply what I learned in the classroom to conduct research in the field. My goals for the project are to publish the results of the study in a scientific journal, present the results at a conference, and maintain a partnership with the local stakeholders in Vietnam to improve the EMS system to better prevent morbidity and mortality from injuries and other health emergencies.
I am extremely grateful to Keck School of Medicine of USC, USC Institute for Global Health, and Hanoi Medical University for supporting the research project. Thanks to the generous funding received from the Breman Global Health Immersion Fellowship, I was able to fund the project in Vietnam. Also, to Dr. Withers of USC for her continued support and guidance in the research process.
Cảm ơn! Thank you for following my story.