Hi, I am Mary Kate!
I graduated from Belmont back in May of 2020 and have been waiting to take this trip to Tanzania since. It’s beyond exciting that the trip is finally here in less than a week, but it is still incredible how much there is to prepare. Between banking, insurance, travel clinics, the organization, my graduate school, and Belmont, I have made more phone calls than I think I have ever had to in my entire Gen-Z life. Another unexpected growth of leaving was submitting a two-week notice from my first post-graduate job I have been working at for almost two years. While it was bittersweet to leave the kids and coworkers, I am so excited to get started on this next adventure.
I wish I had a nice elevator pitch for why I chose Tanzania and what I hope to gain out of this experience, but unfortunately, there’s no real articulate answer. I read a journal entry my senior year about disabilities in Tanzania, discussing the perception of disabilities and the struggles families face finding treatment and support, specifically due to the rural nature of the nation. The part of the article that stuck in my head was that it was not uncommon for families or people with disabilities to go their whole life without meeting another person like them. Working with various disability programs in Nashville, I’ve been able to witness and become a part of an incredible community, one full of Special Olympics competitions, zoom dance parties during COVID lockdowns, and true love, support, and friendship, so the thought of people missing out on that due to limited infrastructure is so disappointing. I am excited to learn occupational therapy in a hospital setting from the doctors in Arusha and witness firsthand how disabilities, education, and behavioral psychology differ from the only setting I have known, all while growing and challenging myself to live on a different continent in a whole new culture.
Gathering materials and finalizing plans, while tedious, has been super fun, and I hope I have thought of everything I might need for three months. It’s been really cool combining my love of backpacking and backcountry hiking with my previous travel experience in hostels to try and make the always allusive perfect packing list. My family and friends have been endlessly patient as I host a show and tell on what I am packing to each and every one of them.
Saying “goodbye for now” to friends has been a little bittersweet, but it has been really great to have the intentional one-on-one time with a lot of the people in Nashville I care about. Also got to celebrate a few friends’ graduation! Part of my pre-departure time has been used the time to connect and get advice from a few Lumos alumni, and all had incredible advice and insight. I would be lost without everything from phone plans and travel insurance to taxi drivers and restaurants in the country, and it has been invaluable having these friends as resources.
I hope you will all bear with me as I learn how to best structure these blogs, and I imagine the ones in country will be much more interesting, but for now, this has been a brief recap of my life before I depart soon!
Anxiously and Excitedly,