Gallivanting can make settling down remarkably hard. The kind of settling down when you physically sit down and don’t move for a while. But as summer officially winds down and I return to Harvard for my senior year, I know that I’ll have to recall how to stay put…at least for a while :)
My time in Geneva came to an end just as August was at it’s beginning. It was that full, relentless hot August that ushered me back to Dulles International Airport as my parents welcomed me home just one day before my 21st birthday. In the time since I had last seen them, a little more than two months had gone by that had me thinking a great deal about what this upcoming year means in the course of my life, and having conversations that I know will continue to figure into my plans as I figure out the way I want (and hope) my 20s to unfold. But I just turned 21, so–thank goodness–we have a ways to go.
More than anything else, I’d have to say that this summer was–though unexpectedly–about family. It was a mix of discovering the land of chocolate & cheese while also finding Sri Lanka outside of Lanka. Plenty of European adventures were to be had while I still felt the weight of the problems (and solutions) that plague public health professionals on a day-to-day basis at the WHO. Rewind to my first day and I remember feeling memories of Mexico flooding back to me as soon as I landed in Geneva because–once again–I was in a foreign place that I would call home for another episode in my rapidly changing life. But at the same time, that is where many of the similarities stopped.
This was my summer of seeing healthcare delivery from up on high at an international organization where doctors are more likely to send emails and draft proposals than they are to titrate medications. From the micro, down-in-the-dirt (or red dust of the Sierra, as the case may be) view that I had while in Mexico to the macro one that I was gaining at the WHO, this rapid shift in perspective gave me an invaluable window into what doctors do (and sometimes fail to do) when they have public health emergencies on their hands. Even if they cannot physically see a patient standing before them, the patient is ultimately the person at the end of the line–the one for whom all of this work is being done. The challenge for health professionals, data management specialists, politicians and government leaders, is to not lose sight of that. And so, even as Polio and Ebola raged on and Dr. Chan gave advice to the world’s health ministers from a podium just a few feet away from this awestruck intern, I did a lot of personal growing in Geneva that I hadn’t expected. I learned a lot about myself, the mistakes that I will inevitably make and the people whom I can always count on to help me up when I’m ready to get back up again. Geneva helped me grow in ways that seem particularly fitting because they came just before I met my milestone birthday.
I had arrived in Geneva 10 weeks earlier with no idea what lay in store. Instead, I knew only that I was, truly for the first time, very much on my own…or so I thought. But friends and family soon emerged at times and places that I hadn’t anticipated. If I’ve learned anything through my travels, it is that any place can become home if you do your best to find the people who make it so.
And so, even in quaint little Geneva, I found myself discovering a city that has a great deal of it’s own unique and irreplaceable magic.