Not knowing what to do next, and certain that I had just made the worst decision of my life, I just stood there. At the time, going to a small town in the Amazon jungle of Colombia to serve as a tutor for elementary school students sounded like a good idea. My sense of alienation was amplified by the stark reality of a failing neighborhood. Experiencing the palpable lack of resources and knowing I couldn’t do much about it was devastating. It took a lot of resilience and effort to get past the initial shock. My understanding of and comfort in my place within the community grew as I acclimated to my new surroundings. Every spare moment I had, I spent instructing the parents in reading and writing in preparation for the children’s classes. I contextualized the resources I used to teach in order to make them more relevant to my students. At last, I understood that I had joined their ranks, and I felt blessed to have found such a beautiful bunch of people. The actual meaning of altruism and the value of hard effort were both reinforced for me by this event. I’m taking this with me as I start a new chapter in my life, coupled with the heightened cultural awareness I’ve gained.
I’ve always wanted to work in the medical field. When I was younger, I accidentally burned both of my arms with boiling water and had to spend many days in the hospital. Even though I was afraid and in pain, a woman in a white uniform came to see me every day. Whenever I saw her, I felt at ease because of the way she conversed with me; it was almost like she was telling me a story. I finally asked her why she was always wearing white, and she said it was because she was a nurse. A nurse, I told myself, knowing from an early age what I wanted to do with my life. She was understanding and helpful, and she had a knack for breaking down complex concepts. The skills I picked up from her are the ones I’ve been working on ever since, because I know they’ll serve me well in whichever field I end up in.
In addition, I think it’s important for nurses to have the ability to establish trusting relationships with their patients. As a tutor, I was excellent at establishing rapport with my pupils and working to ensure that what they were learning was of practical and personal value. Throughout my first week of tutoring many years ago, I had one kid who consistently became bored during reading class, and I couldn’t figure out why. When I realized I was having difficulty communicating with him, I resolved to adopt a fresh approach. Totally unprepared, I came to our meeting with an entirely new curriculum and reading material. Since I recalled that he like reading about monsters, I assigned that genre for our reading that day. Suddenly, a smile spread across his face, and he began to take pleasure in the class. By being patient and imaginative, I was able to establish a rapport with him, and I learned valuable skills that would serve me well in my future nursing career.
This information was put to use over the course of three years as a volunteer at a community center serving people with modest incomes. My desire to go into nursing was reinforced, and my abilities to work in teams and communicate effectively were both enhanced by this experience. In that fast-paced setting, I worked on numerous projects and initiatives to increase access to services for marginalized populations. One of the events’ sponsoring companies required the completion of a report containing information from several sources. Given the volume of material I managed and the urgency with which it had to be completed, even the most seasoned leader would have struggled. But it was obvious to me that we couldn’t get far without good communication inside the team. It was a privilege to speak up for the voiceless, and that experience has reinforced my ambition to become a nurse and provide similar advocacy for my future patients.
When I contemplate my future career, I am constantly brought back to the same thought: caring for others is a great deed, but devoting my life to making someone’s day a bit brighter is the most wonderful life choice I can make. My entire life has prepared me for the challenges of the future. Going to a rural place deep in the Amazonian jungle was something I always thought was a bad idea. That was one of the most formative experiences of my life, and it altered the course I was on forever. I’ve always wanted to go back, but now isn’t the appropriate time. I need to do this first so that I can come back as a nurse.