With the support of a departmental research grant and through some great networks, I landed a 6-week research experience in Puerto Rico. The experience was eye opening, served as a language and cultural immersion, and established lifelong friendships.
During the previous spring semester, I had been chatting with a friend and faculty member about the anti-climatic feel to the passing of my qualifying exams and how unprepared I still felt. I attributed this to my lack of experience in working with a research team or with a specified project. After listening to me, my friend simple asked, ”Well why don’t you do something about it?” The faculty member followed in asking, “how is your Spanish? I have a contact in Puerto Rico.”
I contacted the faculty member in P.R. and within 24 hours I had a response and the rest was my summer.
During my time there, I worked at the medical campus alongside two faculty members, and graduate students who had recently collected data on sexual health, attitudes, and personal sexual history of Puerto Ricans. Additionally, I visited and was a part of the workshops offered at a local AIDS clinic, participated in the end of semester presentations, commencement, and the inauguration of the first transgendered safe space, Nosotr@s.
On the weekends, I visited surrounding towns, cities, and beaches. The people of Puerto Rico were warm, extremely hospitable. At social gatherings I encountered individuals who were eager to hear about my experiences on the island, and ready to add to my bucket list. Needless to say, the bucket list only seemed to grow, and I eagerly look forward to next summer when I plan on returning to take on another project.
*All pictures taken by Zelideh