Mentor: Tonya Train
Project title: Effect of oxytocin on immune cell function
This semester was a bit unconventional for me. I spent the last three and a half months studying abroad in Florence, Italy. While some may view this semester as “time away” from my research and my journey as a scientist, I embraced this semester with a broader view. One of the wonderful aspects of the Lumen Prize is that scholars are chosen not solely for their research project, but for their emergence as a scholar. Part of my journey as an undergraduate has been to welcome every opportunity and be able to look back with no regrets. While I was unable to focus exclusively on my project this semester, I was able to spend all of my time focusing on emerging as a better person, scholar, and scientist. I believe that this adventure was the optimal approach to enhancing my life as an undergraduate student and to prepare for my future.
One of the biggest lessons I learned this semester is that I am capable of so much more than I ever thought possible. I rediscovered an adventurous, child-like spirit that helped me enjoy every moment of this semester. I was able to learn a new language, study Italian art history, and modern Italian literature. I learned not only how to study in a completely different way, but was able to become educated in topics that I would otherwise not have had the opportunity. I can now walk into an art museum and discuss a piece of artwork, compare it to other pieces, and estimate the time period and medium. I can also read a piece of Italian literature and compare it to other modern literature and have an educated discussion about the style and theme of the text. I can also hold a conversation in Italian and write a story in Italian. These are all skills that I never thought I would obtain. In the past few years I have had the opportunity to excel as a scientist and I am very proud of that, but now I can be proud of these accomplishments outside of the sciences, which has allowed me to grow immensely as a scholar. Not only have I realized my capabilities as a scholar, but also my capabilities as an adventurous traveler. I chose to fully experience my semester abroad with no regrets. Traveling in Italy and throughout Europe taught me lessons that could never be learned in a classroom. I chose to let nothing deter me from this experience, whether fear, fatigue, or timidity. I pushed these limitations aside and found the more energetic, adventurous, passionate version of myself. This is the version I like the most, and I have accomplished so much more than I could have ever imagined.
In addition to traveling all around Italy, I was fortunate enough to travel to Switzerland, France, Croatia, and the Czech Republic. I visited many places and was able to learn many things. Every single day I found myself learning something new about the world. I discovered that I did not know as much as I thought I did. That may seem strange, but there is something about being in a country where you don’t speak the language and don’t know much about the culture. You realize that all that you thought you knew isn’t true, and that there is so much more to learn. I’ve always loved learning and embracing my education, but it took me traveling halfway across the world to realize the lessons that can be learned outside the classroom. Every moment abroad holds a new lesson, a new adventure, and a new revelation. This also heightens my child-like spirit. I remember constantly asking my parents questions as a kid, and my education and emergence as a scientist has not ceased this questioning. Being abroad allowed me to constantly ask questions. My curiosity grew and even as I settled into a routine in Florence, I would discover something new that would spark my interest. It is both exhilarating and terrifying to be so young in the world you thought you knew. My view on the world changed and once I began asking questions, my life changed. The way I learn things about myself, about others, and about the world has changed. The last three and a half months have been the happiest of my life. I am so grateful that I was able to study abroad and I encourage other students to do the same. I am so thankful for those who encouraged and supported me. I’ve widened my understanding of the world and my place in it. I look forward to where my life will take me from here and I am so excited to continue my Lumen project and continue to emerge as a scholar and as a scientist.
Dr. Ann J. Cahill
Professor of Philosophy
Spence Pavilion 111
2340 Campus Box
Elon, NC 27244
Phone: (336) 278-5703
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