Ariel is a second-year Health Policy and Administration MPH student with a Global Health Concentration. Ariel worked with the Ministry of Housing and Social Development in Grenada, an island in the southern part of the Caribbean. She was grateful to receive funding from the UIC Global Health Program and self-funded the remainder of the practicum. She was interested in continuing her experience in Grenada after accompanying a group of UIC MPH students to do work with the Ministry in Grenada during spring break.
What was the most valuable thing you learned through your global professional experience?
While there are many things I learned about applying public health principles on the ground while in Grenada, perhaps the thing I learned most was flexibility and adaptiveness. International work requires good listening, thoughtful engagement of stakeholders and the ability to change course at the drop of a hat. If I had expected the same working environment I had in corporate America, my experience would have been far less rich and rewarding. Being flexible on the ground while working in international health is an excellent skill I am glad I learned while in Grenada.
How did this experience prepare you for work in public health?
Working in Grenada gave me the confidence to believe I can be a public health professional. Though I have been out of school and working for many years, public health was a career change for me. Before arriving in Grenada, I did not consider myself all that knowledgeable and skilled. Working with the Ministry and the people of Grenada made me understand that I am bringing a specialized skill set and framework to public policy challenges, and I have something important to offer in any room.
How did your perspectives or worldview change as a result of this experience?
Working abroad helped me realize that the world is much smaller than it feels when you stay in one place for a long time. I have traveled in the States, but living abroad for the summer helped me understand that I am capable of being flexible and adapting to new cultures and environments. An important part of this understanding is learning that wherever you go, people are friendly and kind, and we all want the same things. The world feels significantly smaller and less unknowable because of my experience in Grenada.
In what way did this experience enhance or change your career goals?
Prior to going to Grenada, I did not plan to consider policy positions that had an international or global focus. I feel I have broadened the job opportunities open to me because of my international experience.
What advice would you give to current global health students?
My advice would be to remain flexible about where your practicum may take you and advocate for yourself. There are so many professors in all the divisions that have global experience; email them or stop by their offices and ask for a meeting. Talk to everyone you can about wanting to go abroad and what practicums may be a good fit for you. There are so many connections to be made and experiences to have!