Looking back, I would say my fall semester junior year was my hardest semester so far. You would think it would have been my very first semester when I arrived at Lafayette, barely speaking English. My first semester was tough because I had a lot of trouble writing and speaking English. I had translated sentences and phrases from Malagasy to French then went to Google translate to translate them into English. Those were the routines used to write my papers, even have a conversation. (By the way, I still go on Google translate from time to time. Also, Google added the Malagasy language as a feature which makes it easier for me.)
The difference between my junior year and my first year, however, is newness. I was brand new to Lafayette, to the United States, and it spurred me on to overcome each one of my challenges.
I took challenging classes my junior year and spent many hours studying. Yet, I was not as driven as I was my first year. I guess I was tired. I was not sure anymore why I was studying really late at night; I just knew I wanted to get good grades. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get good grades, but as we all know, it is sometimes hard to do things with an unclear reason or purpose. Also, I chose to double major in international affairs and economics just because I wanted a job that will allow me to travel around the world and hoped that one day I would find out what I exactly want to be doing.
Now I have found it. I would like to work on public health. After my most recent semester in Senegal and my experience in Madagascar, I finally understood why I was staying up late studying in Skillman Library for so many nights. I am glad to see that my majors are the right fit for me. It sounds weird to me to say, this but after a seven-month absence, I am ready for senior year. I feel refreshed.
My mother was a doctor. She always told me to become a doctor like her, but I told her I was not interested. In Malagasy we have a saying, “Ny adala no toan-drainy” which translates to “The fool is like his father.” It means that each child should always do better than his/parents in life. For me, I did not like the idea that I would do the same thing as my mother.
Health care has now become an interest of mine as it is one of the measures for social justice in my opinion. I explored this while studying abroad in Senegal last semester. I took a public health class. I went to visit a Peace Corps health volunteer in rural Senegal and worked on the polio eradication campaign in Madagascar last summer.
True, it’s not being a doctor and maybe I should have listened to my mother, but I like what I am doing. Because of my more practical experience this past 7-8 months, I am now sure that I would like to pursue a graduate degree in public health or international development related to health.
I no longer fear the question, “Do you have plans after graduation?” I don’t have a clear destination next summer, I don’t know where exactly where I will be going, but at least I know the direction.