The University of Iowa

UI Fulbrighter on COVID and the importance of global exchange

September 10th, 2020

Erik Ovrom received a BA in interdepartmental studies (health science track) from the University of Iowa in May 2019, and was the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Mexico for 2019-20.

As a Fulbright-Garcia Robles fellow in Mexico City, I had the opportunity to self-examine, explore one of the earth’s most diverse geographic landscapes, and connect with countless amazing people. At my host institution, La Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad Iztapalapa, I had the pleasure of working as an English instructor and a phlebotomist. My boss, Javier Vivaldo, mentored me in and out of the classroom and made my stay in Mexico that much more special. What’s more, my roommates and my rock-climbing friends emphasized the importance of family, social support, and intercultural exchange through their actions.

Now back home in the States, I often reflect on my incredible stay in Mexico. Currently, I am a first-year medical student at the Mayo Clinic, the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. At Mayo, our diversity—of experience, skill, language, ethnicity, and otherwise—is the cornerstone of our collaborative learning community. In this sense, my education at Mayo is an extension of the global citizenship I came to appreciate during my Fulbright year. The Fulbright Scholarship is the premier opportunity to represent the U.S. internationally as a cultural ambassador.

"I hope that students view this public health crisis as a call to action: a powerful reminder of the importance of transcultural communication and collaboration."

The COVID pandemic underscores the importance of diplomacy and international exchange. Despite social isolation and online learning, citizens around the world are more connected now than ever before—linked together in an effort to beat this virus and advocate for the underserved communities that have been so disproportionately affected by the virus. I hope that students view this public health crisis as a call to action: a powerful reminder of the importance of transcultural communication and collaboration.

To learn more about Fulbright, I encourage students to contact Dr. Karen Wachsmuth, the fabulous Fulbright advisor who has made the University of Iowa a top Fulbright producer for five consecutive years.

Students are encouraged to begin their funding searches and applications at least six months to one year in advance.  Schedule an advising appointment with Karen Wachsmuth to discuss your interest in an international fellowship or begin an application (as a UI undergraduate student, graduate student, or alumna/us).

 


The Fulbright-Garcia Robles grantees enjoyed a mid-term reunion in Huatulco, Oaxaca, which included a scuba diving adventure in the beautiful bays of Southern Mexico.
 

In December 2019, my friend Raud Kashef and I took an amazing bike ride through a cloud forest in Mineral Del Chico, Hidalgo. Mexico presents a climate that varies drastically over small distances. We spent this night in a cabin, each of us buried underneath five blankets to keep warm in the zero-degree-Celsius weather. In the morning, we woke and drove one hour to Actopan, Hidalgo (pictured above) where we enjoyed a full day of rock-climbing in hot, dry—desert-like—conditions.

Here, I collect a blood sample from a student in el laboratorio medico at la UAM-I. In cooperation with la Coordinación de los Servicios Integrados para el Bienestar (COSIB), I was trained as a phlebotomist and a lab-tech. Learning about health care practices in Mexico in this position was a true privilege.
 

My student, Jesus, displays a hand-drawn portrait of Maria Sabina he made for me during a conversation workshop on health and wellness practices in the U.S. and Mexico. Maria Sabina is Jesus’s distant relative and one of the most famous curanderas in Mexican history.

Currently, I am a first-year medical student at the Mayo Clinic, the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. At Mayo, our diversity—of experience, skill, language, ethnicity, and otherwise—is the cornerstone of our collaborative learning community.

 

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