I reached out to my mentor after the Zika outbreak and its link to microcephaly occurred in Latin America. We discussed how the recommendations given by the governments of several countries did not meet the realities of them, so we decided to study this in a rural population in Guatemala. Thanks to SURCA I was able to travel to Guatemala to conduct this research and come back with promising results. My mentor and I focused on the local knowledge, the stigmas and barriers that existed around Zika virus and what that meant for the population's health.
I got involved in this applied learning experience because biological anthropology is a field that is near and dear to my heart. The Zika virus was also affecting Guatemala, which is my home country, so I felt like I needed to do something about it. I hoped to gain ethnographic skills, as well as a better understanding of the disease and how different governments deal with public health crisis. I also hoped to broaden my understanding of how people are being affected by this virus at a micro level.
This experience gave the tools that I needed in order to move forward with my academic career. Not only did this experience push me out of my comfort zone, but it also opened many doors for me. It was definitely challenging and time-consuming but I would not change it for anything. I learned that I am capable of doing the things that I put my mind too, and I also learned how to talk to people and how to give back to the community that has given me so much. It was a learning experience for sure.
My research has allowed me to present at several conferences as well as get a chapter published in a book that is in press right now. The experience of presenting at conferences and getting to know the processes of submission, editing, and professional writing will make me a more viable candidate when applying for graduate study. When attending conferences I was able to meet a lot of people and potential advisers! Having this background allows me to be more in touch with people I want to work with in the future.