One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when I was climbing the pyramid was, "I wonder what Coach would think of my conditioning level right now." I was clinging to a large black rope precariously strung along the middle of the pyramid's steep wall, focusing on placing one foot in front of the other on the bumpy, stone steps in front of me, praying for sure-footing, and sweating more and breathing harder than I would like to admit. Then, suddenly, there were no more steps. I looked up having reached the top of the Sun Pyramid in the ancient city of Teotihuacan and the throng of buzzing tourists I was standing around faded into the background. All I saw was green for miles. Green trees. Green fields. Green cactuses hazily visible on the ground. Green slopes leading up to the tips of mountains and volcanoes – brimming with wisps of smoky grey. There were other colors too. Yellow and red roofs of small houses scattered across the ground. Small black dots, the people on earth, were barely discernable from my perch. The brown and grey of la Pirámide de la Luna that looked like a miniscule block-toy in the distance. And then there was a baby blue sky – stretching on for miles, unperturbed by any large buildings or signs of modernity. The conditioning training programs I instinctively began to slip from my mind and all I could think was, "Wow." Wow, this must be what it feels like to be a giant. Wow, I'm on top of the world. Mexico is a stunningly beautiful country, and I'm glad I was convinced to come on this trip.
This is the summer before my senior year. I was afraid I needed to be completing my resume for medical school applications, researching, and studying for the ominous MCAT. Instead of doing these things which I previously felt were necessary and the norm for a rising senior such as myself, I found myself standing on top of la Pirámide del Sol during a Study Abroad trip to Puebla, Mexico.
This summer I found myself cautiously embarking on my MCAT studies (I promise, Mom!); doing my best to continue working out and improving my flexibility (I promise, Coach!); afraid for my rapidly approaching final year at Harvard, something I felt would place an ultimatum on my life as a young adult; and feeling small while struggling to figure out my future. However, now on July 18th, halfway through my summer, upon reflecting I'm no longer concerned by any of these things, and unable to imagine spending my summer as a rising-senior anywhere other than Puebla.
Studying in Mexico was the opportunity of a lifetime for me, the chance to fulfill my dreams of traveling abroad and seeing what else the world had to offer – a chance I had never been fortunate enough to have previously. Academically, I was able to study the migratory paths and behaviors of our ancient human ancestors during the course of evolution and the scientific principles of food intake and energy expenditure. But on the whole, I gained so much more. Amongst all of the late nights studying, the reading assignments, the research, and the lab reports, I was blessed with the experience of a lifetime. I put my Spanish knowledge into practice, gained five amazing new friends, cooked traditional Mexican foods, learned how to salsa, and all-in-all fell in love with learning more about the Mexican culture I was immersed in. I was forced from my comfort zone and a static state of living. I was forced to grow. I had my breath absolutely taken-away, completely stolen from me, on more than one occasion. The moment described above, atop the pyramid was one of them. I looked out at all that surrounded me and found myself not only in awe, but also not worried – a marked accomplishment for me. I wasn't worried about the future. Here on top of the pyramid, I felt like I didn't need to be small in a world that felt so big. That's what I needed most moving into senior year. A reminder that even at Harvard, a place where feeling small can sometimes come so easily, and amongst the bigness and uncertainty of the coming year and life, I could be big too. The lessons I learned on this journey are invaluable and I wouldn't trade them or this experience for anything.