First and foremost, I would have to thank the Masai people for my newfound inner peace. For the past 2 ½ months, I have been introduced to their boldly unapologetic lifestyle. Their riches come from depths beyond material things. The people are fearless and proud, fully secure in what they have to offer to their people and their land. It was almost instantly when I discovered that there would no longer be room for my persistent, self-doubt, second-guessing just about every decision I made. Without ever knowing it, the natives here encouraged me daily. Their livelihood rubbed off on me and I was able to let go of my day to day anxieties of coming face to face with adulthood, a transaction I am so grateful to have made in full.
Like many of the Gilman scholar pioneers before me, I sought out this study abroad trip in hopes of finding clarity in the direction of my life. Aside from running away from the piling responsibilities I had back home, post-grad life was on the horizon and I continued to struggle to find my place in the world. What exactly was I good at? What did I have to offer? These questions haunted me day in and day out. My constant confusion left me unable to fully take advantage of the opportunities granted to me in the United States. Today, I am more confident in how I can make use of my privilege, moving forward with giving back to the overlooked and underserved in and out of my community.
As the Masai poured into me, I soaked every lesson in. The greatest asset gained from submerging myself so intensively in their culture was my advancement in cultural competency. While establishing community partnerships as a pre-requisite for the public health work I would be doing as an intern, I learned the language, took a genuine interest in their culture, and tried my best to assimilate. In my first post, I mentioned how I got haggled in the shops due to my poor negotiation skills. I am so proud to say that this is now a distant memory. I may not get the better deal every time, but the locals here do embrace my bargaining efforts with a smile.
In retrospect, it would be fair to conclude that this experience has shaped my overall livelihood for the better. Arusha provided a much-needed push to get out of my head and become comfortable in my skin. Before this trip, I confined myself to the expectations of the people and surroundings of Prince George’s County. In a way, this experience allowed me to reintroduce myself with no familiar bystanders to critique my journey.