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Class of 2010
- Academic concentration: anthropology; certificate in global health and health policy
- Hometown: Concord, Mass.
- Summer locations: Johannesburg and the Eastern Cape, South Africa; and Lesotho
- Activity: internship with TEBA Development; senior thesis research
- Length of stay: 11 weeks
- Internship secured: through the Program in Global Health and Health Policy
- Previous international experience as a Princeton student: summer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to study Swahili and teach English
Writing from South Africa
For my senior thesis I am doing ethnographic field work about perceptions of illness, especially HIV/AIDS, and the role of biomedicine in the healing and coping process. One of my goals is to understand the health systems and their limitations, the perspectives and opinions of local people and the challenges they face. From my field work I hope to identify how I want to focus my thesis.
In terms of my internship, my objectives are to understand the effectiveness of the home-based care program for ex-mineworkers in the different regions where I am doing field work. I'm working to accomplish these objectives by observing the operations of the local TEBA offices and going to the homes of home-based care patients with the local field workers who conduct the regular visits to the patients. I'm also working on a grant proposal for medical supplies to be donated to a local health care provider in the Eastern Cape.
A typical day:
A typical day in Lesotho begins at 5:30 for me. There are nine people living in the house of the family I am staying with and we all have our own bath time; mine happens to be first at 5:30 a.m. I’m at the office by 7:15 and, if it is a day we are going to the field (about three times a week), we usually leave around 8. Everything is far away, because as my supervisor described Lesotho, it is "all folded up." Driving through and around the mountains on the narrow roads takes time, so most days we only see about two patients. When we meet patients we ask about their health, their family's health and their mental status. The meetings are a chance for the patients to voice concerns or ask for advice and also to maintain their connection to the mining industry, a relationship most of them have built over 30 or so years. I usually get home after dark, tired from a day of travel. The evenings are spent cooking with my host family, watching South African "soapies" [soap operas] and writing my field journal for my thesis research. The days that we don’t visit patients I spend writing up the results of interviews, updating the database system with patient information, and meeting with coordinators of the local clinic and the HBC [home-based care] program.
A meaningful discovery:
I was most surprised by the hope of some of the people I'm meeting despite sickness and the loss of their jobs. The first man I interviewed described that when he was first sick he was eager to find out what was wrong with him and willingly tested for HIV despite only hearing about it when he visited the clinic after noticing his body shape changing from illness. When he tested positive he made the decision that he would not live in shame and instead would live positively. He described how he took his medical booklet to his family telling them his status and has since diligently taken his ARV [antiretroviral drugs] and ensured he has a balanced diet. He has now regained his strength, the sores on his face have disappeared and his life is relatively unchanged except that he now visits the clinic monthly and discusses his status openly.
Why go abroad:
I have always wanted to immerse myself in a culture different from my own and make a difference in the lives of others who are less privileged than myself. When choosing colleges as a high school senior, the opportunities at Princeton to do research abroad was a big part of my decision to attend Princeton. My interests lie in health and health care in developing countries, so I have always seen it as a necessity to experience it firsthand, and this summer has provided me with that opportunity.