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Talking about travel on diversity prompt

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Sheemu

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So for "what do you bring to the diversity of this campus/school/student body" secondary question

I traveled around Cuba recently as a vacation, but stayed with families in casas and made friends with a lot of locals. I visited a lot of the more impoverished areas and stayed away from the clean touristy places. Would this be an appropriate thing to talk about for the diversity prompt? In that I am open to new experiences, am willing to embrace different cultures, made an effort to learn a new language? I know adcoms really don't like voluntourism or "poverty tourism" so I don't know how I should address the poverty aspect. Most Cubans are extremely poor, and I'm not sure if I should address that in the sense of opening my eyes as a middle class American, or embracing a familiar part of my own identity, since I was partly brought up by my grandparents in rural China and grew up in conditions which weren't that much better. But I also don't want to sound privileged or make any unfair comparisons since I did immigrate out of China eventually.

Thoughts anyone? Should I just avoid talking about this trip altogether?
 

Goro

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Translation: "I went on vacation and saw really poor people"

Adcoms will be more impressed if you actually lived the life, and weren't merely slumming.

Just asking for an auto-reject.
 
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summergirl

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So for "what do you bring to the diversity of this campus/school/student body" secondary question

I traveled around Cuba recently as a vacation, but stayed with families in casas and made friends with a lot of locals. I visited a lot of the more impoverished areas and stayed away from the clean touristy places. Would this be an appropriate thing to talk about for the diversity prompt? In that I am open to new experiences, am willing to embrace different cultures, made an effort to learn a new language? I know adcoms really don't like voluntourism or "poverty tourism" so I don't know how I should address the poverty aspect. Most Cubans are extremely poor, and I'm not sure if I should address that in the sense of opening my eyes as a middle class American, or embracing a familiar part of my own identity, since I was partly brought up by my grandparents in rural China and grew up in conditions which weren't that much better. But I also don't want to sound privileged or make any unfair comparisons since I did immigrate out of China eventually.

Thoughts anyone? Should I just avoid talking about this trip altogether?
Just talk about your poor upbringing in rural China. It's a much better topic than the Cuba trip.
 
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Espressso

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Translation: "I went on vacation and saw really poor people"

Adcoms will be more impressed if you actually lived the life, and weren't merely slumming.

Just asking for an auto-reject.

What if you've traveled extensively throughout various continents over the course of your life? Rather than mentioning a one time vacation trip? Realistically, my experiences traveling - particularly during my teenage years - really helped form the foundation of why I even want to go into medicine.
 

vellez

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The Cuba one is just awful.

The China one is a little better.
 
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Goro

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Smells of priveledge.

What if you've traveled extensively throughout various continents over the course of your life? Rather than mentioning a one time vacation trip? Realistically, my experiences traveling - particularly during my teenage years - really helped form the foundation of why I even want to go into medicine.
 
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Goro

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Correct, irrelevant to to point at hand. Tourism doesn't make you cool.

Well to put it that way, Americans on average are much more privileged than most people in this world. Even America's poor are among the world's wealthy. So we are all privileged one way or another.
 
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rukid95

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What if you wrote about living the life of the indigenous people in the country you visited for a week? No hotels, pools, or gourmet food. You lived as part of their society and on their rules? Would that be ok or still not the best topic?
 

JustaDO

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What if you wrote about living the life of the indigenous people in the country you visited for a week? No hotels, pools, or gourmet food. You lived as part of their society and on their rules? Would that be ok or still not the best topic?

So you want to write a narrative in your air-conditioned room on your computer about a moment in time where you traveled in a pricy airline in order to choose to live in slum like conditions for a week in a foreign country? I presume slum-like since there were no hotels, pools OR gourmet food.

Sure, go for it, and report back.
 
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Syns

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Would you call Peace Corps tourism? Granted, the poster's experience most likely is nothing close to what Peace Corps volunteers have to go through, but it seems like criticizing international experiences in impoverished areas is a politically correct thing to do on this forum. I just find it interesting people just shout out "privilege" to these experiences. If that's the case, Peace Corps is a privilege/tourism and so are probably all the international opportunities medical schools in the US offer. Does that mean Americans should stay out of development and aid? Subject to debate.

Troll attempt 2/10
 
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Law2Doc

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"Diversity" just means what makes you different in an interesting way such that you bring a unique perspective to the school. I think people on SDN get hung up on some notion that it has to involve race, poverty and the like, which is why we are seeing so many threads like this. But if a rich white guy writes about his experience with minorities or the poor it's unlikely going to help his cause. You aren't "diverse" in this way, sorry. In truth if you aren't from a minority or dirt poor you should stay far far away from mentioning these forms of diversity and focus in on an interesting skill or hobby that makes you "diverse".
 
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Law2Doc

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I think an excellent and respected reason to go abroad is for language immersion
I'm pretty sure most Americans go to Cuba for the cigars, beaches, rum drinks and scuba diving. And then stay close to the hotel so they don't ever encounter people who can't speak English.
 
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Goro

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Peace Corps is the epitome of service to others less fortunate than yourself. It's a major plus to one's app.

To even try to compare Peace Corp with extensive travelling and tourism is laughable to the point of trolling.


Would you call Peace Corps tourism? Granted, the poster's experience most likely is nothing close to what Peace Corps volunteers have to go through, but it seems like criticizing international experiences in impoverished areas is a politically correct thing to do on this forum. I just find it interesting people just shout out "privilege" to these experiences. If that's the case, Peace Corps is a privilege/tourism and so are probably all the international opportunities medical schools in the US offer. Does that mean Americans should stay out of development and aid? Subject to debate.
 
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Goro

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And the vintage cars!
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I'm pretty sure most Americans go to Cuba for the cigars, beaches, rum drinks and scuba diving. And then stay close to the hotel so they don't ever encounter people who can't speak English.
 
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jwilliams1993

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Remember that diversity doesn't just refer to race and ethnicity. I feel like most people automatically go to that for these essays and pull the "I had black friends in high school and went to mexico on spring break once, so i'm socially aware" thing. Try to think of something about you that makes you stand out from the rest of your class and use that!
 

Goro

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I'm getting a whiff of troll so string that it's making my sinuses melt and leak out of my nose. So, I'm done talking to you. Applying Ignore function. You'll feel some slight pressure behind the eyes.


Just because Peace Corps has a well-respected name doesn't mean it is infallible. I already admitted OP's experience is nowhere close to what Peace Corps volunteers have to do. To see that you think Peace Corps is the epitome of service is quite interesting. I will let you look up stories from past volunteers and its potential to do harm as well as any other volunteer experiences abroad. Personally, I have heard many stories, although most do not want to admit because they just spent 2 years and 7 months of their lives in the Peace Corps. Again, my original issue was with your usage of privilege. For all we know, EspressoDrip42 could have been involved in nonprofit work locally during his/her travel. In fact, I know a 11-yr old that's been fundraising for years and going abroad this summer to a low-income country abroad with an NGO I've worked with. So let's be consistent, Peace Corps is also a privilege and so are all other international experiences in impoverished areas. Recognizing privilege is an important part in the world of development and aid, but I just do not agree with casting a negative light on all such international experiences that may not be as established or well-known (i.e. Peace Corps).
 
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Crayola227

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I'm pretty sure most Americans go to Cuba for the cigars, beaches, rum drinks and scuba diving. And then stay close to the hotel so they don't ever encounter people who can't speak English.

Agreed.

Adcom seemed cool wit it but I did minor in the language which I think demonstrates some legit commitment to that language.

I didn't get enough immersion. I should have done a year abroad or some such and I'd be fluent now, but *boyfriend* -- which is why my advice on here has always been to say -- **** the guy, focus career. The right ones will stick around while you make a better future for yourself and a future that includes them. The ones you fear to lose over this are the ones that were never going to make the long haul even if you stay anyway.

Also, if you claim foreign language skills, be prepared for an impromptu conversation in it at your interview - happened to me!

I did one of these "voluntourism" gigs but never felt it was looked down on by the places I interviewed - but I made the emphasis on how we worked with local leaders (so it's a local agenda) and that the point was language use and learning diversity - not how much my few weeks helped the locals. Plus we traveled over rough terrain to where local religions essentially discouraged seeking modern medical care, so for many it was a first time exposure and educational for them, the hope was that the contact might break down some barriers, and they were provided with referrals in this country with universal healthcare that just wasn't being accessed by people. The local infrastructure just wasn't built for this sort of house call outreach, so the local docs volunteering their time decided to bring in the dollars from US kids wanting some clinical exposure. That pays for their time and the bus and the driver and gas etc etc to make it happen.

Also, I think for example, teaching people to boil their water to avoid transmission of parasites is a gift that keeps on giving and DOES make an impact that can last (if it really is a novel idea for people, which is was in some places we went).

Saying these missions are pointless is like saying that the last week I had one has in the ICU where you lost 4 of 5 patients and only 1 who goes home off the vent is pointless.

I would argue that if your presence truly helps someone in a way that might not have happened otherwise you've done a good thing. Not to mention a lot of the Latin American countries that more recently have come out of poverty have done so in large part due to tourism - Costa Rica and Ecuador being examples. And I know some of those countries don't just sit there and rely on those tourism dollars - I know Costa Rica and Ecuador have turned them around and used them to better their economies in ways that make them more independent of such dollars.

So the key thing in my mind, is it depends on the mission, how you sell it to adcom, and that you avoid ethical concerns about what you're "doing" to patients. I used language skills to fill out a health history form speeding up the visit for the local attending who saw the patient themselves (not different to what we do here in med ed). I gave some vaccines under supervision (another lasting good if you ask me) which I don't think approaches the "used humans as guinea pigs for procedures" standard.

Anyway, that's the devil's advocate story on doing these things.

I wouldn't use them for my diversity essay for what diversity I bring except the language skills.

You can use it for taking about exposure to diversity. These are two separate prompts.

For the record, since I'm been doing some much advising on here, I went over all 15 of my secondaries (since I saved the files) and made note of which ones I interviewed and was accepted to.

Still n=1.
 
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