Alexa Rodriguez just finished her junior year in Biology at Cornell University. Over winter break this year, Alexa served for two weeks at the “supporting public health education” Volunteer Abroad in Accra, Ghana. She has done a lot of basic science work as part of her studies, but this was her first time outside the lab working on a grassroots project to apply her knowledge in the community.
It was also her first time in Africa. Having volunteered domestically before, Alexa helped in the design and delivery of malaria education workshops at local schools, contributed to a public health training manual, and also assisted nurses at a clinic as a UBELONG Volunteer.
What motivated you to seek this volunteer opportunity in Ghana?
In high school, I took part in a number of service projects and mission trips to various parts of the United States. I always loved going on these trips and having the opportunity to give back to the community. Since being at Cornell, I always knew I wanted the opportunity to use all that I had learned thus far to serve others; so, when I heard about a winter break trip to Ghana through CHI (Cornell Health International), I jumped at the chance to partake. I have always wanted to go to Africa, and after doing some research on Ghana, decided that it was somewhere that I would love to go. I am a Biology major with plans to apply to medical school, and although I decided not to complete a minor in public health, I have always harbored a special interest in the topic and believe education through public health mediums are important; thus, the opportunity to assist on a public health project was particularly inspiring to me.
What advice would you provide to volunteers like you who want to succeed in Ghana?
My first piece of advice is to come in with an open mind and an open heart! It is a very different culture and you have to be ready and willing to adapt to it. As long as you are flexible and accepting of the different cultural norms in approaching your work while there, there really is no way you will not be successful.
What did you learn about yourself in Ghana?
Ghana definitely gave me a new perspective on both the world and medicine on a global scale. Prior to my time in Ghana, I had never really been out of the country so experiencing a different culture was very new and exciting for me. I realized that in the global community we live in today, cultural cognizance is truly essential and is something that I hope to practice and implement as a medical professional in the future. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in Ghana and would love to opportunity to go back and serve for a longer period of time.