Hello, hola, bonjour, Ütz Awäch, Je’y, Alli punzha.
On the surface, these words and the people who speak them look different. Their houses look different, their means of transportation look different, and their clothes look different. Many people think that makes us inherently different. But in many ways, the differences that we see are what make us so similar.
Meeting someone from a different country with a different background can be scary, especially if you do not speak the same language. How can you connect to someone with whom you cannot even communicate? That theory is quickly disproven with a global health experience. One of the first things people learn is that a smile goes a long way. Smiling is universal, and it can immediately build respect and trust between two people. Another easy thing to realize is that children do not care what language you speak; they speak the language of bubbles, soccer, stickers, and most importantly, laughter. Even just watching the patients, you can see the love in a mother’s eyes as she looks at her baby, and you can see the concern a man has for his elderly mother. Compassion and love are a fundamental part of humanity.
These lessons from a global health experience lead you to the conclusion that people are not really that different after all. We generally have the same wants and needs as those halfway around the world from us and everywhere in between. Parents want to provide for their families and give a better life to their children than what they themselves had. You learn that people do not choose when and where they were born, but they make the best of the situation in which they find themselves. Eventually, when you realize how similar we truly are, you accept and embrace the things that make us different. You learn to love others because you want them to love you in return.
Not only are these lessons greatly impactful for how you treat others, they also can help you become a better health care provider. Whether you are in Guatemala, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, or the United States, it is important for the provider to understand and accept that patients come from different backgrounds which inherently affects their health. People may have different ideas of what it means to be healthy or how to treat various illnesses, and just because it could be different from what you believe does not mean that it is wrong. Someone may not know what you have learned in school or even be able to read, but that does not make them less than you. Humans are humans, and while we may speak a different language or look different on the outside, that is what makes us the same. People say that a global health experience introduces you to a whole new world, but in reality, it just opens up the world that has been there all along.