When it came time for me to choose a location in which to study I wanted to find a program that would take me off-the-beaten-track. Walking into the Binghamton Study Abroad Fair back in February I was immediately struck by the sign for Malawi. The chance to study and explore one of the more remote corners of Africa was an opportunity I could not pass up. With that the desire though I must be prepared to face, comprehend and process all that Malawi has to offer.
I’m anticipating that one of the hardest aspects of this entire trip will be confronting the harsh realities of HIV/AIDS. As an individual who identifies as a gay male who was born essentially after the AIDS crisis in America I’ve avoided seeing the true damage that this disease can exact. We live in a world where an individual like Magic Johnson can survive for decades with medication. This is not the case for the people we will encounter on this trip. For them, AIDS is as it was here: a Death Sentence. I’m not entirely sure how confronting this reality will impact me.
Another source of uncertain apprehension comes from confronting the realities of poverty at this magnitude. I’ve been incredibly fortunate with the life I’ve been able to live. The sheer fact that my family is able to afford to help send me to Africa for a study abroad program establishes that my family is more financially secure than most of the world. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa and the widespread nature of it is something with which I will struggle immensely. It’s a sobering thought to realize that while we’ll be at our hotel enjoying the comforts of home the individuals we will encounter will be struggling to survive each day.
Ultimately I’m excited to face the challenges of the next two weeks. I look forward to broadening my horizons and learning more about a culture and way of life different from the one in Binghamton.