To say that leaving London was heartbreaking for me would be an understatement. But my adventures abroad were not quite over: As a Health Policy and Practice student, I was Jamaica bound.
I wanted to make a blog post specifically addressing Jamaica because in many ways it was the metaphorical giant question mark at the end of my semester in London. I had planned, packed, and carefully prepared for my time in London. The trip to Jamaica had seemed like an afterthought, too far away to really worry about. And then, in the blink of an eye, it was time for Jamaica.
For various reasons, I was nervous about travelling to Jamaica. My family and friends back home fretted over its safety. I was told that I would be catcalled frequently, something I’m not particularly comfortable with. I had never travelled to a “developing” nation before. And despite all my vaccinations being up to date, I wasn’t convinced that I wouldn’t catch some strange tropical disease.
My fears were unfounded, of course. It quickly became apparent that Jamaica is pretty close to heaven on Earth.
The weather was warm and the landscapes were breathtaking. But the best thing about Jamaica was the people I met. I had gotten used to being jostled around on London’s bustling streets. Londoners often seem aloof and cold. Not so in Jamaica: almost everyone I met was friendly and caring. Their weren’t many places where I didn’t feel welcomed, and there were no places where I felt unsafe. We had learned in lectures that Jamaican nurses are the backbone of their communities. But in Jamaica we saw that this was not an exaggeration. I spent the week in the presence of remarkably strong, capable, and well-respected women.
The true highlight of the trip for me was completely unexpected: It was bonding with my classmates and the professor and IES Abroad taff member who came with us. I had thought I already knew everyone. After all, I had taken classes with the other students for months. I received weekly emails from Simon, the IES Abroad staff member. And the professor, David, had taught me in class. But I guess that turns out you don’t really know people until you spend nine days travelling, studying, and working together in a tropical paradise.
We bonded over unexpected adventures: cars backfiring, our professor’s strange brilliance, and rainy days on the beach. We bonded over things we had never known about each other (Here’s looking at you, Cous). We bonded over-- or at least in spite of-- exhaustion, jet lag, dehydration, and sunburn. We bonded in a way that we only could in Jamaica, far from the clouds, smog, and homework in London.
The Jamaica trip was an expected blessing. It was busy, educational, and thought provoking, but it still offered space for me to rest and reflect. It also served as a necessary transition back into life in the US. When I finally parted ways with everyone in Atlanta, boarding the last leg of my journey to Pittsburgh alone, I was sad but not shattered.
Although I’ll never be ready to stop travelling, Jamaica helped me prepare to come back home.