To anyone planning to travel between Boston and New York, I highly recommend taking a bus. I left from South Station and four short hours (the bus was equipped with wifi) and I arrived in the Big Apple. I took a cab to my hotel where I met some of the other women participating in the Practicum. A few of us walked over to the UN (about two blocks) and picked up our grounds passes.
I’ve been excited about this week for months, but I must say that having an official UN pass in my hand made my excitement grow exponentially. The UN security is all international (naturally) and hearing some familiar and unfamiliar foreign accents, I can already tell that though this experience may temporarily satisfy my wanderlust, I will leave needing to use my passport in the near future.
This evening, over New York-style pizza, we each started to learn the names of the other 22 practicum participants. We are a diverse group coming from all parts of the country with different academic backgrounds and interests. The group is mix of undergraduate and graduate students, and I know there is a lot we can learn from each other.
Tomorrow we will have a day of orientation, but we began to discuss some of the ideas and themes of the week. The United Nations has designated the priority theme of the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women as “Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.” Our discussion tonight got me thinking about my experiences of science and technology and how these have influenced my direction, both academically and otherwise.
As a sophomore in college, I was pre-med and had every intention of going to medical school. With Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy and Organic Chemistry on my schedule, I decided to round things out with French Literature. It seemed like a great idea until I sat through one class of French Literature — not my thing. I quickly researched my other course options and decided that my best option was to pick up Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies (WAGS). From the course description, I figured it would hold my interest more than my a close relationship with my French dictionary.
After running around campus to get my course change paperwork signed (and after my French professor lovingly slammed his door on me when I asked him to sign the form), I walked into Intro to WAGS five minutes late. The desks were arranged in a circle and there was an index card on each desk. What had I gotten myself into? I was a science student and used to lecture halls with podiums where the professor poured his (yes, only his — I never had a female science professor) knowledge about hydrogen bonds or the Krebs cycle into our clueless minds. The desks in WAGS were in a circle.I was the only science student in the course, and to be honest, I had never thought much about gender.
My first assignment was to think about gender. For three days, we were required to keep journal about the ways that our lives involved or were affected by gender. For example, I would write down that I went into the women’s bathroom or that I checked the “female” box on an application. As I kept a list, I realized that the part of my life that made me most conscious of my gender was the science lab.
My academic life soon felt like two conflicting worlds. But when your life is pulling you in two directions, you make it work until it works out. Though I dearly loved the WAGS program at the first college I attended, I transferred to Loyola University Chicago to complete a degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Women’s Studies and Gender Studies. This diverse academic background along with study abroad in India, Spain, and Morocco led to my current interest in global women’s health. So here I am, in graduate school for Women’s Health (and thankful I didn’t have a love for French literature).
Click here to read “I’m Not in Lab to Wash Dishes,” the paper I wrote as a college sophomore.