“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” – Marcus Aurelius
In high school language classes, I developed a passion for Spanish culture. My studies in bioengineering here at Oregon State have spurred a strong interest in medical care. So, when an opportunity arose to experience both medicine and Latin American culture in an extraordinarily new way, I didn’t hesitate.
I flew down to Argentina in June of 2012 to volunteer at a private hospice center and do research for my Honors thesis. I arrived in Buenos Aires on June 27th, and I spent several weeks in the nearby city of Pilar, Argentina. There, in Pilar, I spent many hours volunteering at a private hospice home that cares for terminally-ill patients who wouldn’t normally have access to hospice services. I met with hospice nurses and volunteers, and had many daily encounters with patients. Each day I was able to deepen my connection with the hospice guests and, knowing that their time in this life was limited, I had some very profound conversations. Looking back, the overall experience in the hospice environment was extremely peaceful and surreal.
I am writing my thesis on the global view of hospice care and the role that culture plays in making end-of-life decisions. My observations from Argentina opened my eyes up to many universal aspects of palliative care and medical care overall. This research is particularly interesting for me, because I plan to apply to medical school soon and study to become a physician. Medicine needs culturally competent professionals, and I hope that I can be such a person when I am finally meeting with patients and practicing medicine.
Along with volunteer and mission work in Argentina, I was able to travel a bit too. I spent a few days in the northern province of Salta, where I was able to enjoy some hikes and warm weather. I spent a lot of time conversing with local Argentineans. However, it wasn’t always easy – there were many points where my rusty Spanish language left me lost in conversations. One of my favorite memories was when, instead of saying I was excited to “get to know” Argentina, I accidentally used the Spanish word for “cook.” The people I was talking with gave me a blank stare as they pondered the prospect of “cooking” their country…
This summer experience was amazing, because I didn’t go down as a tourist. I went down to be a part of another culture and to learn something. And I loved it. I want to send a special thanks to all the gracious donors of the HC scholarship fund. The few weeks that I spent in Argentina made me realize how valuable time is, and I feel like the whole experience has given me a renewed focus in life. Time to live it out.