The foul air weighs heavy on my lungs as I struggle to keep pace with my research team. Despite the fact that I am surrounded by people everywhere I turn along the crowded streets of Beijing, under the combined illumination of twilight and LEDs, I stick out like a sore thumb. And yet I have never felt more at home. In this moment I am holistically enveloped in the Other; both challenged and liberated by my environment abroad. Even though this was my first time out of the country, I knew that this paradoxical feeling I had of belonging and separation, of bold exploration and latent knowing, was the most striking feeling I had ever experienced. Studying firsthand by learning a new way of life, broadening the horizons of both myself and those around me: this is how I want to live. Further, this is what I want to pursue as a career.
My experience conducting research abroad in China through the Freeman Foundation/ASIANetwork Student-Faculty Fellowship during the summer of 2014 was a pivotal moment in my undergraduate career. It was what solidified my desire to continue to expand my horizons by any means necessary, be it through professional, personal, or academic development. At Belmont, I am a Political Science major with minors in Mandarin Chinese and French through the Honors program. In a lot of ways, I would feel like I was entering a different world with every classroom I entered. Whether it was Israeli Politics, Advanced Chinese, or French Literature and Civilization, it was as if the second I entered the room, I entered another world, just waiting to be explored.
In the summer of 2015, I had the opportunity to work as an intern with the Office of Global Food Security at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. During my time there, I learned extensively how the often interdependent tenets of developmental foreign policy are applied to create successful and substantive impact in developing communities throughout the world. Through witnessing all stages of crafting these intricate strategies, I became inspired to create a project of my own to make an impact, while capitalizing on my desire to challenge myself with a new cultural experience. And that’s when I found Lumos.
The basis of my project is to prioritize different facets of global health and women’s empowerment, two of the major focus areas I learned about while working at State. Under this umbrella, I aim to coordinate a broad marketing campaign to make nutrition information and resources more readily accessible, providing English lessons, and arranging workshops to discuss basic finance management. I am working with Cross Cultural Solutions, whose relationship with local partner programs will determine the final nature of my project to ensure that my skills will be used meet the real needs of the community. But in the meantime, I will pursue this project with the wisdom of Rumi at the forefront:
“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”
Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi