As I sit at my desk counting down the days until my trip to Guatemala, I know that there is still much I need to complete before I can travel. There is software, airfare, recording equipment and other small items that need to be purchased before my journey.  I momentarily have a flashback of the day I decided to apply for an Unbridled Project through the Engaged Learning program.

Update: Kimberly’s blog is moving to the new Engaged Learning blog. Please follow her in Guatemala here. Thank you for your patience with our transition.

All my life I have been very passionate about learning; therefore, when I discovered a program that would allow me to learn “outside the classroom,” I immediately was intrigued.  I remember quickly searching online for the program application, and as I began scanning over the requirements, I was stumped for a moment.  How could I explain in an eloquent manner what I was so passionate about?

I then realized that it would be best to find a mentor who could provide me with guidance. The first individual who came to my mind was Anthropology Professor Nia Parson. I had the opportunity to take Dr. Parson’s Medical Anthropology class – Health, Healing and Ethics – my first year at SMU.  This class provided me with wonderful and different cultural perspectives on health and healing. Due to past personal experiences, I was able to relate so well to the material presented in class.

After speaking with Dr. Parson and explaining my ideas for an Unbridled Project, she immediately agreed to be my mentor, and we began discussing how to write up my proposal.  Now, I do not know how many of you may have written a research proposal before, but it is hard work!  I was searching through references in the Anthropology department’s library that would state what methods I would use in my research, how I would analyze the data obtained, how I would conduct my interviews and much more. My first rough draft read more like a story … but after many revisions and peer reviews, I was finally able to create a proposal I could be proud of.

Then came the day to submit my Engaged Learning application, and after that I needed to wait until I received a notice of the committee’s decision.  On April 20, I was sitting in the Cox School of Business café area, completing homework and eating a delicious lunch from Einstein Bagels.  As I was eating, I received an email from Susan Kress informing me of my proposal’s approval by the Engaged Learning review panel! I was so excited I jumped up and proclaimed, “Yes!” in the middle of the café. I think I also knocked over my chair in the process … For those of you who were in the café that afternoon, that crazy individual who jumped up yelling with excitement was me.

Now, you may be wondering what is left for me to complete before I travel to Central America.  Well, I must admit I have created a checklist so I do not forget anything.  Aside from checking out numerous references over modern Maya populations, I am also formulating my research questions, speaking to the International Review Board at SMU and ensuring all the required legal paperwork is in order.  Since I will be blogging during my stay in Guatemala, I have set up this blog so that I can share my experience with others.

However, not all of my work has been on the administrative side.  Just yesterday we had a photo shoot for all the Engaged Learning students.  Aside from the wind blowing us all away, it was so much fun!  And now I am on the SMU homepage! How exciting is that?

I cannot wait to see what all is in store for me as I complete my research, but I am thrilled to be completing my project through Engaged Learning.  I am eager to learn more about the health-related practices of the indigenous Maya, and I look forward to meeting so many new faces on my journey.  Above all, I want to explore what my research can contribute to the topic of global health and to imagine how it could be used to provide better health care for immigrants.

Update: Kimberly’s blog is moving to the new Engaged Learning blog. Please follow her in Guatemala hereThank you for your patience with our transition!