In an age of spring breaks and cheap airfare, it seems as though everyone knows someone who has vacationed abroad. Consider the girl on your Instagram feed whose family went to Costa Rica over the summer. She posted photos of herself conquering the death-defying zip line, and the fruity drinks the hotel bartender made for her on the beach. What about your classmate that volunteered to build houses in Uganda with his church group? He posted a series of pictures on Facebook documenting the construction, many featuring local Ugandan children that grew attached to him over the course of the week. Both of these scenarios seem harmless on the surface but, there is a serious underlying issue.
At the base of the mountain, I captured words in a waterproof, yellow notebook. Our geology professor, Nick, was providing context on the location for his students and, over the course of the trip, I’d realized that a geological, as well as a physical, vocabulary for the land was vital to experiencing Iceland. The words were finding themselves in my poetry, interdisciplinarity a natural bilingualism, and they stuck on my lips. They couched in empty, green calderas and basaltic fissures. Discovered mother in mountain streams.
Our bus carefully maneuvers down the bumpy road, sinking and rising through potholes, weaving to avoid oncoming cars and pedestrians. We’ve been on the bus for so long that it feels like home – and yet, I am a foreigner in this country, surrounded by people from an entirely different cultural background. We boarded the bus just after sunrise, not expecting to arrive at our next destination until dinnertime. This is a typical travel day in Madagascar.
My decision to study abroad in Ghana came as a surprise to many of my classmates. It was well known that the trip would involve a lot of hiking and volunteer work, but I was never known as an outdoorsy person, nor had I shown many altruistic virtues. This was, nonetheless, a simple choice for me. My dad’s side of the family had migrated from Ghana to Grenada generations ago, and in the 40’s my grandfather immigrated to the States for a better life. Our family name – my last name – remains Ghanaian: Quashie. Neither my dad nor my grandfather has ever been to Ghana, so when the opportunity arose to visit the country where my family originated, I knew that I couldn’t couldn’t pass it up.
In the Summer of 2019, I had the opportunity to study abroad through my school and it was life changing. On the 28th of May, I boarded a plane and got ready for an 8-hour flight. I was so scared because the longest I have been on a plane was only around three hours, this was eight. As we started to board, my anxiety started kicking in. I was biting my nails and overthinking all the possible situations that could happen on the plane. These thoughts included the plane crashing down or experiencing an extreme amount of turbulence.
I did not feel like myself in those first weeks back in the states. I could not immediately process the martian lava fields where our flight touched down, the cold breath of a glacier beneath crampons, the brightness of the rain when it falls in the capital, the yawn of the earth where it rises straight up in green cliffs. Iceland seemed a world away then, and it does still. In a coffeeshop down the street from my new apartment, I look out at the layer of snow draped over medians and grassy knolls and realize it’s the first snow I’ve seen since my trip north. All I am able to do is flip through the slew of pictures I took; listen to Bon Iver, my soundtrack on the trip; and reach back through the months gone by in an effort to return, somehow.
It was clear the moment we arrived that Prague was a beautiful city. The moments that are most memorable to me were the excursions we took to St. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral Crypt and the village of Lidice. We learned about Operation Anthropoid and the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, one of the highest-ranking Nazi officials killed during World War II. The crypt was the hiding place of Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš as well as five other paratroopers in the aftermath of Heydrich’s assassination. Hitler laid siege to the cathedral once he was made aware that the soldiers were hiding there. The bullet holes and water damage from that siege have been left so that they can be seen and never forgotten. Now the crypt is lit and contains bronze reliefs and memorial offerings. We were given the opportunity to stand in the crypt with all of the lights turned off, as the soldiers had done. The only light that came from a small window was too dim to make much difference. In an instant, we lost sight of each other. Our time in the darkness lasted only a moment, but it seemed to compel us all to silence. The darkness meant dread and loss.
I ’m sitting in Terminal 5 of JFK International Airport as I write this, and I look around to see hundreds and hundreds of people bustling by to get to where they need to go. The sound system rattles off boarding instructions in languages that I can’t quite place. The girls sitting across the Charging Station from me can’t stop taking selfies and talking about how they missed their flight and have been stuck in the airport for 13 hours. I don’t have much sympathy for their plight, I just think maybe if they’d shown up on time they wouldn’t have missed their flight, and I wouldn’t have to be dealing with them right now. I have a pounding headache and the way these girls talk keeps distracting me from my work, getting me even crankier than I would be in this crowd, but that’s just how the world works. All these people surrounding me are people I’ve never seen before and will likely never see again. People from all over the world, in all colors and walks of life pace past me and I realize that the small town I grew up in is miniscule compared to the rest of the world.
My whole life I have always wanted to travel. I’ve always had a strong passion for the idea of traveling. It’s not something that my parents did a lot of. It didn’t mean that they didn’t want to, but it’s harder for them. Being a first generation Mexican-American made me strive for more in life. The summer of 2018, I got a job to save up for my Italy study abroad trip. Despite not having my ideal job, I kept reminding myself that it would be worth it in the end, and it was. Something that I realized is I’m someone who values individualism. There have been several moments that took place in Italy in which my own cultural values became apparent in a way that they hadn’t before.
Born and raised in New York City as a Chinese American, culture has surrounded me my whole life. I’ve had a love and hate relationship with my own culture and has taken a while for me to fully appreciate my background of who I am. Growing up in an elementary school with mainly Asians, then moving onto middle school with mainly Caucasians, and high school with mainly Hispanics and African Americans, I’ve been surrounded with various types of people my whole life. In the city, I never thought of myself as different because the city is so diverse. It wasn’t until high school when I started to distance myself from my own culture because classmates would question me about my cultural foods and language. I remember in high school, my mom would pack me food for lunch, such as noodles, dumplings, and leftovers from dinner. I was never ashamed of my food until people wanted to try or called it “disgusting” or “looks weird” or “smells weird.” I felt it was embarrassing and started to make myself more “American.” I pretended I didn’t know my language or the “weird” types of foods we eat. Going to school here in Geneseo has slowly allowed me to accept my culture and be myself again. I joined a couple Asian culture clubs as well as made a couple friends that are just like me. I’m able to share my foods and everyday life with them.
My father, Kieran, was born just a town away from me in Queens. It is weird to think that if he had not moved to Ireland when he was young, we probably would have gone to all of the same schools. However, it did not work out like that.
My dad was just one year old when his father suffered from an unexpected fatal heart attack. My widowed grandmother, Mary Jo, did not know what to do with herself and her four young children. Ireland was all she had known.
The way that tissues are prepared to be viewed in sections under a microscope is a delicate process. The chemicals inhaled in a histology lab are health hazards, and the job is tedious. It starts with the fresh tissue sample being fixed in formalin. Usually tissues are left to fix from six to twenty four hours. After fixation, the sample is cut. A cecum sample, for instance, would have to be cut down by a physician’s assistant to pieces small enough to fit into a 7 mm by 7 mm by 7 mm embedding mold. The entire biopsy is not sectioned off, and the remainder of the excised tissue is stored in formalin, in case deeper cross-sections are needed. After the small samples have been fixed, they need to go through a dehydration process in order to be embedded in paraffin wax. This usually means leaving samples in a series of ethanol baths at varying concentrations. After the water in the sample is replaced with ethanol, the ethanol needs to be replaced with a hydrophobic compound so that it can interact with the wax. This step is called clearing, and it usually involves leaving the tissue sample in xylene. Finally, the tissue is infiltrated with paraffin wax. Hot paraffin is poured over samples in the small molds and allowed to cool so it solidifies into a block which can be cut by a microtome, which makes cross-sections about two micrometers thick. These cross-sections are so thin they can float on water, which they are dropped into, so that a slide can be placed under them, and they can be easily mounted.
I look out the window of my apartment in the Bronx to see my view of the highway, some mechanic shops, and cars parked on the streets. My phone vibrates. It’s my abuela. “Buenos dias, mi amor. Te desperte?” she asks. My grandma is an elderly Puerto Rican woman who is as outspoken as she is a good cook. I used to stay over at her house when my mom would work late nights and whenever I wanted to have a sleepover with my cousins.
Walking home from dance practice was always one of my favorite parts of the night. After my body heat seemed to be 1000 degrees after practice feeling that cool air on my skin was very relieving. Walking those Brooklyn streets during the evening instead of the afternoon was always a different feeling. As a senior most of my companions were seniors, but somehow I ended up in a dance club with only freshmen. Growing up I felt like I had to hide my talent in dancing because I didn’t have a typical body for it, and I never had any professional training.
The 1 train rumbles along. The car is outfitted with various shades of browns and muted neutral tones across the seats. The shiny aluminum walls unashamedly show their age, warped and scratched from years of teenage etchings. I notice a man a few seats down from me with a paper bag of groceries on the ground between his legs. We roll into the 181st Street Station and the train comes to a halt. Exiting the train is a race against the clock, as the doors’ routine seems to have no standard timing. The grocery-bearing man hoists up his bag and before he can get up from his seat, several cans and sundries spill onto the floor. The bottom of the bag has given out and the exasperated man’s eyes dart from the carnage to the imminently closing doors, wondering how he can make it off of this train with his family’s dinner. He frantically kneels down and begins gathering his scattered goods.