Roses, Thorns, and Rosebuds

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Cayla Palmer, HBHE Student

Tonight is our last night in Texas. We’re all a little relieved to have our projects and deliverables completed, but there’s also a sense of soberness throughout the group. I think most of the group would agree with me when I say that this trip was both easier and harder than we initially expected. We go through “roses and thorns, or “highs and lows,” at the end of the night, and this theme seems to resonate throughout the group. For me, the week was filled with an equal mix of these two extremes: highs and lows, and yet all of my experiences this week have left me with new knowledge and skills that will stay with me and serve me throughout the rest of my life. We called these hopeful moments “rosebuds,” and I think that the rosebuds I took from this trip were the most important part of the experience.

When we first arrived in Texas, I was nervous that our project wasn’t going to go as planned. We had to change our interview guide into a survey the night before we left for Texas, and when we walked into our first focus group on Monday, I was afraid. Despite my anxieties, we were welcomed with open arms by the promotoras we worked with and our survey went extremely well. Despite not having a copy of our survey in Spanish, we worked with the promotoras to translate the survey during each focus group. The community ties we were able to witness between the participants and the promotoras we worked with were amazing to see. We witnessed what good public health work and community involvement can look like, and that was uplifting in a way that I could never articulate well on a computer. We were there to conduct a social media engagement survey, but I think the most valuable data we got both from our surveys and our observations was the strength of the interpersonal ties and community networks we were able to witness.

As I sit here writing this last blog post in Texas, it’s these “rosebuds” from my trip that make me hopeful for the future. We went in expecting to see a lack of public health services, but it was the community ties and the strength of these bonds and the enthusiasm that the people we worked with had for progress that stuck with me as I look back on my time here. Because of our quick turnaround time, I was really anxious about how well our survey was going to be received, but it actually turned out really well and we were able to gather a lot of really important information about the community for our organization. Things will go wrong, and that’s okay. I witnessed examples of areas of public health that needed major improvement, but I think those experiences were valuable too. We can’t go into practice experiences believing everything is going to be a rose, or a thorn. Similarly, we can’t walk out of practice experiences believing all of our experiences were roses, and none of them were thorns, or vice versa. The highs and lows of every experience provide valuable teaching moments, and it’s these rosebuds of hope that have me excited for my work in the future. Thank you, Southeast Texas, for welcoming me into your communities and showing me the importance of balancing roses and thorns and turning them into valuable lessons and skills.

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