Ever since I came to this beautiful country, my dream was to travel across the United States. My professional goal was to learn as much as possible about dementia and ways of providing support to individuals who suffer from this disease. Both of my dreams came true thanks to the Fulbright-Millennial Train Project. During my journey across the Southern United States, I will be conducting interviews with older adults and listening to their needs and suggestions on how to design dementia-friendly communities. I also scheduled a few meetings with researchers who provided me with some feedback about my project, and inspired me to pursue my academic goals.
Being on the train with people I never met before, working under time pressures and facing unfamiliar situations, are all challenging. However, this experience has taught me an important lesson so far: leaders should always be outside of their comport zone since this is where real learning experiences occur. My first meeting with a researcher from the University of California, Los Angeles, was canceled a few hours before we were scheduled to meet. Even though I felt uncomfortable changing my plans, I took action and forced myself to leave my comfort zone. Instead, I interviewed older adults that I met at Los Angeles’ Union Station. Even though I was unprepared, the interview went well and I got lots of feedback. The Fulbright-Millennial Trains Project gives us many opportunities to challenge ourselves so we can experience personal growth.
Another important skill I learned during the sessions on the train is how to talk about our projects in a way that evokes more interest among people listening. Now I feel even more excited about my research!