Here’s my story in a nutshell: my name’s Sonika, and I’m a senior at Union College (Schenectady, NY) studying Biology and Music in the Leadership in Medicine (LIM) program. This fall, I’m going to be studying abroad at the National University of Ireland, Galway. This joint-degree “straight med” program is the main reason I’m going abroad at all…but more on that later. First, a few tidbits about me:
- On location, location, location: until I got to Union, I’d always lived in and around urban areas, so that’s always been my comfort zone – I’m very much a “city kid” at heart. The peace and quiet of central New York, however, has been growing on me over the past three years, and I fall more in love with it every day. Given how strongly I’m affected by “place”, I’m curious about how living in Galway – albeit for four months – will shape me.
- On being an ISFJ: I’m no social butterfly, but that’s fine with me, as the relatively few relationships I have – with God, family, and friends alike – are really close ones. I often self-evaluate in terms of these relationships, especially since I tend to take care of (read: mother) the people in my own support system. So I expect that being distanced from said support system will take a considerable toll on me. I wonder if/how being abroad will teach me how to reach outward for new relationships, as well as how to reach inward for an even better grasp on my own emotions...
- More on being an ISFJ: I’m a planner. I like to control, organize, and schedule/color-code/outline whenever possible (hence the bullet points in this post, incidentally). It follows, then, that I am generally spooked by the unknown. It doesn’t matter, in other words, that I’m perfectly comfortable with travel; if that travel is taking me to a place where I don’t know exactly what to expect, I’m going to be considerably jittery about it. I’d be quite pleased if the only thing I learned from my term abroad – which will undoubtedly serve me with one new experience after another – was how to relax a little.
That’s an adequate sketch for an introductory post; future posts will likely fill in the gaps. To end, let me backtrack for a moment, though, and tie up a few loose ends:
- Why am I going abroad at all? Because I have to. The LIM program, you see, has an “international experience” requirement. And why’s that, you ask? Because “the medicine of the new millennium will require physicians to understand medicine not only as the application of biomedical science to the art of healing, but also as a socioeconomic and cultural institution. It will require cosmopolitan leaders with a broad international perspective – physicians who are not only dedicated to caring for their patients, but who are willing to confront the complex bioethical problems facing contemporary medicine.” I must develop into a well-rounded physician from my program directors’ perspective…and a well-rounded person, from my own. And travel, living independently, being encouraged to explore who you are so you can explore your world…these are all the kinds of things that I hear will “round a person out”, so to speak.
- Why blog about it? Two reasons:
- I’m an internal processor. If I’m writing about something, be it in a blog, letter, journal, song, whatever…that means I’m dealing with (and possibly, learning from and about) it. A dear friend recently commented to me, “Sonika, you are no passive observer of life.” I’m inclined to agree with him; I am, by nature, the kind of person who feels deeply (no matter what the emotion). And this explains why I write quite as much as I do: everyone needs an outlet.
- This will be an easy way for me to update family and friends…as well as stay accountable to them (and myself, now that I’m thinking about it). When I come home, I want to be able to look back and say with confidence that I grew, that those four months meant something…that I’m different, somehow, because I went abroad.
I’m closing in on three weeks until I leave, friends, and am not entirely sure about where this blog is going to go. Actually, I’m not entirely sure about where I’m going to go. Time will tell, and I’ll write about as much of it as I can. In the meantime, is there anything here that you identify with? Anything you want to respond to? Anything specific that you want to hear more about? Any questions you have? I’d love to hear from you…
 This isn’t the best pattern, true, but it is what I do naturally.
 To be clear, I’m referring here to physical distance. Yes, Skype and Facebook will be very helpful to me in this arena, but physical nearness (for me) is very important.
 Yeah, I realize I’ll have to get over this at some point…but no one grows up overnight, right? I’m working on it…
 In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure my friends would like to see me learn to relax, too…
 Ah, it sounds lame, I know, but I’d rather be honest than paint myself as a perfect student. I am, at my core, a creature of comfort, of familiarity and routine and hugs. Especially hugs. I like those.
 Is this a weakness? I used to think so…but have recently been growing into an acceptance of this being the way that I operate. The people who really matter in my life accept it, so I say: why shouldn’t I?
 Among the many reasons for which my sister is awesome, one is that she gave me this link. We may have vastly different musical tastes, but we’re definitely on the same wavelength when it comes to Matt Bomer.