I’m Home.

Hi everyone and sorry for the long period of silence. I arrived back in the U.S. last Sunday and have had a really busy 10 days moving apartments, going to a wedding, and quickly pulling together a research grant application to return to my Brazil case study (cross your fingers for me!). The first day back was a really difficult jolt back to real life, but now I’m adjusted and kind of feel like the trip was a dream. I wrote a blog-post on the plane that I debated whether or not to post because it isn’t as professional as my others, but I think it offers a good glimpse of how I grew from the trip personally. Here it is:
By the time you’re reading this I’ll have arrived back to NU, finally done laundry, and had dinner at Mt. Everest (the best restaurant in Evanston if I must choose one). I’ll be an official circumnavigator! Currently I’m on the plane between Tokyo and Chicago. I just spent 10 days in the Philippines and had really incredible experiences speaking with scientists, farmers, Greenpeace anti-GMO activists, and regulators. I’ve been slow to come out with blog posts because I try to put a lot of time and thought into them – If I’m going to spew things about GMOs on the internet, I at least want to make sure I can support my claims with data or my experiences. I’ve created a placeholder Philippines post, so check back later this week once I’ve had time to think through my time there and organize a post.
In addition to the blog, I’ve also kept a personal handwritten journal that’s mostly just a day-by-day log of the people I meet and everyday (mostly non-research) experiences I have. It’s not very polished and is entirely to have a personal record of the trip, but I thought I’d share part of my final entry. On the blog I’ve focused a lot on the research, but hopefully you can see that this trip has been about a lot more than just GMOs. Please excuse that it’s not as polished as some of the other posts. Without further ado…
I haven’t been very excited to get home. I think this trip has brought out the very best version of myself – flexible, outgoing, intellectually engaged – that sometimes gets lost when I get too stressed or comfortable with a routine. I’ve grown so much over the past few months and know I will take certain lessons with me for the rest of my life.
Solo travel has made me more independent, which makes me more confident about my ability to tackle any situation, or at least “fake it till I make it”.
It’s forced me to confidently stand by my work and think on my feet in professional situations.
The trip has taught me to gracefully admit to not knowing what someone is talking about (which happened quite often when I visited biotech labs).
I feel much more likely to pursue an advanced degree in the natural sciences because I’ve seen the social impact that a biologist can have (and how good biologists can make it a positive impact).
It’s forced me to reflect on my role as a privileged white American traveler and how other people around the world see me (and hopefully be more sensitive to not fulfilling the worst of stereotypes).
After countless catcalls, not-so-subtle sexual advances, and warnings to “be careful” (which male white travelers don’t receive), I’ve become more conscious of how many of my daily experiences are shaped by the fact that I’m a woman. Sure we claim gender equality in the U.S., but I don’t think many men understand the feeling of constant hyperawareness of their surroundings that most women have to maintain when alone.
Most of all I’ve become much more comfortable with being out of my element, and am actually quite nervous about transitioning into the stress of NU academics and repetitiveness of routine. Three months ago I was absolutely terrified of the trip because of how huge and daunting it seemed. Now I’ve realized that the world is a pretty awesome place, and despite what the media and a certain U.S. presidential candidate will have you think, almost every person from every background, and every country is genuinely good at heart. And that’s the beauty of it – when you get to know amazing people, you realize that there are countless more amazing people out there to meet.
Very few individuals have the opportunity to travel around the world, particularly at age 21. Should it have to take such an adventure to become a better version of myself? I’m not sure. But so long as I had the opportunity, I’m grateful for every minute of it. Thank you to the Circumnavigators Club, the Office of Undergraduate Research, and WCAS for making this trip possible, and thank you to the incredible people I met along the way for making it so special