McNair Scholar Study Abroad in India

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It was only about a year ago December 2015, then Sophomore, Cindy Le, accepted an interview before the McNair  Interview Committee stating her promise, drive, and motivation to pursue doctoral studies in the field of Public Health. Upon her acceptance, and successful completion of the Summer Research Institute 2016, she sought her next opportunity - Study Abroad. "Transitions to Recovery" Winter 2016 study abroad program, offered by the School of Social Work, aligned with Le's academic and research pursuits. It was not only the chance broaden her cultural capital, but to go beyond the limits. The study abroad program was only meant for graduate and doctoral students, thus not opened to undergraduates. However, Le did not accept "no" rather she sought out for a "yes" and soon enough she got her "Yes". Le was the accepted as the only undergraduate student for the study abroad experience in Chennai, India. Here she shares her experience.

"With the assistance from the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program and the Center of Global Education, I participated in the Transitions to Recovery study abroad program in Chennai, India, led by Dr. Ramesh Raghavan, the Associate Dean for Research at the Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work. The goal of the two week course was to gain an understanding of the various challenges and strategies to accessing mental health care and recovering from mental illness through field based experiences. We visited the various facilities of the Banyan, a mental health non-governmental organization that seeks to provide “care with a human touch, treatment close to home, assistance for the whole family, and understanding and awareness for change.” At each shelter, clinic, place of worship, and shared housing facility, I witnessed a strong foundation committed to one theme of acknowledging a need in the community and fulfilling that need. The Banyan has been committed to addressing the distress of those who are at the intersection of homelessness, mental illness, and poverty. Their treatment extends to creating a sense of community and belonging. They create options for shared housing and vocational training to rehabilitate and reintegrate their clients back into the community. As the only undergraduate student in the program, being surrounded by wise social work graduate students, passionate and determined mental health professionals, inspiring homeless women with mental illness was so meaningful. I was able to reflect on who I am and who I have yet to become as a scholar and community leader. I was given guidance on pursuing graduate studies and navigating academia. Learning from the field, I was able to gain new perspectives on community mental health care strategies to consider in my own research."