June 14, 2016

     Before Mercer on Mission I was sure I wanted to pursue a professional career in medicine. I have never wanted to do anything else. I have participated in service activities throughout my lifetime and have had the fortune to travel to many places including South America, Canada, and all of over China. However, I had never had the opportunity to travel abroad for the purpose of serving others. Serving others outside of the environment affording the comforts of home or even the U.S. moved me to grow in capacities I had not thought possible. I am most thankful for three aspects of my growth, in particular. First, my confidence in my abilities to pursue my long sought-after career as a physician increased immensely and confirmed my desire to pursue medicine. Second, my awareness of how privileged I am for receiving the education necessary to pursue my goals, and the relevance of the education I have received. Finally, I learned that oppressive regimes can traumatize an entire nation and healing may take centuries.


     I learned the need for medical treatment can be much greater than the need of even the poorest in America. The Khmer people would wait sometimes hours to make it through the intake and vital signs process to be seen by one of the medical students. I have always dreamed of practicing in small town, Georgia, but I now realize that this can only be a part of my chosen vocation. Now I aim for a future that will encompass Doctors without Borders and other organizations that regularize medical treatment for the less fortunate abroad. As Aldous Huxley states, “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Mercer on Mission in Cambodia is an experience that has changed my goals, I am now more than ever determined to become a professional in the position of giving back to the world from which I have received so much. My only hope is that we have given the Khmer people at least half as much as they have given me. Participation in their treatment and working side-by-side with the interdisciplinary medical team has taught me that I have the manner, patience, and drive to pursue this goal. In order to reach my target I have to absorb and learn as much as I can in my remaining time as an undergraduate.


     My mother has always told me “your education is something no one can take from you.”  I was raised in a home that valued intellect, nourished learning, and provided all of the tools needed to attain knowledge. I was stunned and surprised to learn of discrimination against the educated. I have learned that in the case of the Cambodian genocide during the Khmer Rouge that with education came a death sentence. The Khmer Rouge targeted intellectuals and professionals to be arrested, tortured, interrogated, and brutally executed. When I learned this I was humbled and reminded that knowledge is only one aspect of a person, and it is what you do with your knowledge that shows your modesty in character. Your character is the tip of the iceberg that the world can see; but your education, ethics, and beliefs lie below the surface and offer support for your actions. The lesson to look deeper into the levels of another and also myself is just one of the many I learned in Cambodia.

Cassandra Hensel, Undergraduate Student

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