Student Reflections on Race and Ethnicity: From China to India via Iowa

Dear Prospective Student,

Xin Xu with an elephant in India

My name is Xin Xu and I study biochemistry with a pharmacy interest at the University of Iowa. Even though study abroad is among the 47 things that students should do in college, it initially didn’t appeal to me since I am already studying abroad in America. However, one course in India Winterim called Pain, Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care caught my attention. With a strong interest in palliative medicine, I decided to go on an adventure to Trivandrum, India during the winter break, 2013-2014.

As one might expect, I had the opportunity to work with experts in the field of palliative medicine. I was honored to learn from many others from Pallium India, a non-profit organization delivering palliative care to millions of Indians who are in pain. I was also pleased to interact with a diverse student body from different backgrounds and disciplines.

Besides engaging in lectures and home visits to patients, we celebrated New Year with the locals, rode elephants, ate marvelous seafood, painted Pallium India’s Inpatient Unit wards and attended its opening ceremony. The support we gave and care we showed for each other bound us together.

What impressed me most about India is its beautiful people. Their kindness and their appreciative attitude towards life despite their deprived conditions are things I can’t take off my mind since I came back. They inspired me to have a greater appreciation towards life and other people.  

Xin Xu with an elephant in India

I will not forget one mother we met during a visit to patient’s home. The mother has been the only caregiver for her sick daughter for the past 39 years. Yet, her only wish is to die after the daughter does. The universal love of motherhood is touching. I can’t imagine how much care and love this great woman has given to her daughter. The mother wept when we gave her some medicine. She hugged every one of us and said something in Malayalam. From her expressions, I saw appreciation even though what we did is not comparable to what she has done for her daughter. The mother gave us so many inspirations about how we should live and appreciate life. It is indeed a privilege to support her through this significant period.

What surprised me most is the kindness of Indian people towards a foreigner. I was sick during the trip and was sent to an Emergency Room. After I was admitted, the taxi driver who sent us there waited outside to see if I would be fine even though he didn’t have to. People from the area called to check on me and expressed their concerns and care. I appreciate the people and what they had done as they went above and beyond to treat a foreigner as their sister. They demonstrated what it meant to be kind.

I am so glad that I came to India. The interactions with those esteemed yet amiable teachers are to be cherished. The life-long friendship with 11 like-minded peers is invaluable as well. While it is true that study abroad develops one’s independence and adaptability to a new environment, it is more than that. Every study abroad experience is unique and I will cherish this three-week cultural immersion for the rest of my life. It taught me how to embrace life and to treat others with kindness. More importantly, it encouraged me to be more open-minded and explore the rest of the world.

There is so much more I could say about this study abroad experience in the beautiful city of Trivandrum, with its amazing people. But I won’t spoil the rest and I’ll leave some room for excitement and mystery. As Augustine of Hippo said, “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” If you ever consider studying abroad, please do it. Hopefully, you will find this experience as rewarding as I did.

Go Abroad,

Xin Xu

Learn about the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship for study abroad

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