Wednesday, January 13, 2016

50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista's Travel Adventures, On the Road, in the U.S. and Canada

Who makes a decision to pursue a doctoral degree at Columbia University, Teachers College, as a young married woman with a two year old toddler and another baby on the way? That would be me. The next question must be "what were you thinking? " Well, I guess I was thinking that I was superwoman and I could do it all and quickly learned that I am not. It was so challenging that in actuality if you ask me how I did it, I would have to say it is all a blur. I relied a great deal on the support of my loving husband and my mother. He was my rock and she was an angel mother/babysitter/food preparer, goddess. If you have people that believe in you, you can do anything! My babies were wonderful. I already had our daughter, who was two at the time, and our son was born, just before my first semester was to begin. I put a time frame on this endeavor, telling everyone that I would complete my doctorate in two years and I did. I had taken a break for two years, after completing my Master's Degree at Yale University, and felt that I handled that pretty well, worked a bit after and being a wife and a mother came naturally so why not mix it up? And so I dived in, head first, of course, dragging my body along for the ride.
Little did I know that one day, in class, when one of my Professor's announced that he had received funding from AAA for the development of a survey that would require a doctoral student to travel to ten locations: eight states in the U.S. and two provinces in Canada, I would end up doing that too. He explained that all expenses would be paid and data used from the study would lead to completion of a doctoral dissertation. "Is anyone interested?" he asked. I raised my hand so quickly and so high that I knew it had to be involuntary. My brain said yes and directed my body to follow suit and I was the only person in the room that responded. "Ok," the Professor responded. See me in my office after class so we can discuss your participation. Then he proceeded with the lecture. I sat there thinking, but my babies, husband, travel, suitcases, breastfeeding, life! What have I committed to? I was screaming with excitement and fear on the inside, while appearing outwardly calm.

We met, I became a Research Assistant and also learned that this role would pay for a good chunk of my tuition and I would get a stipend. It would also facilitate my plan of finishing in two years. Yes! The travel would be done over a period of six months and my husband and mother agreed to pitch in to help with the babies as always, stepping it up even more. I would work harder than ever, to get this done. I literally lived out of a suitcase at that time. I traveled to Providence, RI, Omaha, Nebraska, San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA, Pittsburgh, PA, Miami, FL, Grand Rapids, MI and Alberquerque, NM in the US and Edmonton Alberta and Hamilton Ontario in Canada.
I was met by a AAA representative in each city. My only requirement for each trip was that upon my arrival, I would be taken on a tour to include the inner city of each location upon landing. I required the inner city because I wanted to see the people and the living conditions, as although I had taken on this project, at the core of my interest was culture and health disparities--the gap between the health status of Black and White people in America and the role that socioeconomic status plays in that scenario. I am writing a book about the latter now and others on cultural competency (http://blogs.jblearning.com/health/2012/10/04/special-author-event-dr-patti-rose-at-books-books-in-coral-gables-fl/) as the gap still remains a problem. The survey from my research for the travel proposed by my Professor would ultimately be used to assess the drinking and driving attitudes of Young Drivers. My Professor, Dr. James Malfetti, Sr. became my mentor and guide throughout this process, which I knew was a blessing. He was truly a brilliant, professional and heightened my learning experience with his wisdom. Although he is no longer with us, I am so glad that I had the opportunity to thank him for helping me to accomplish my goal of acquiring my doctorate and graduating in two years so I could get back to my family.

My husband joined me on the California portion of the experience as two of the locations were Los Angeles and San Francisco.
We had a blast, as I visited high schools, in between fun to conduct my research.
I enjoyed every state that I visited and realized the vastness, beauty, similarities and differences of every location. Some of the highlights were Alberquerque, New Mexico where I was very intrigued by the presence of Native American people and developed my love for turquoise jewelry, handcrafted and intertwined with silver and other traditional, native American art pieces. I loved San Francisco, although it was colder than I thought it would be, and I realized that I don't like sour dough bread but love dungeness crabs. I was shocked by the contrast in Los Angeles as I collected data from students at a high school in a high socioeconomic status neighborhood where there were lamborghinis and beyond in the parking lot and a school in Compton where I collected data from students in a trailer, which was their classroom. That is just not right, I thought and that resonated with me deeply. I found Nebraska interesting because I was shocked when I saw Black people there. I don't know why but I hadn't envisioned that until I remembered that Malcolm X was born there and then I appreciated it more.

To see the rest of this story, details on other great locations, beyond my dissertation research destinations,  along with  travel tips, visit this site:
Naturalistas, just believe in yourself and you can and will achieve your dreams!!!

No comments: