Naruwan – Welcome to Taiwan

I took a year off between college and med school and I am grateful and happy to have made this decision. I met some incredible people, learned new things, and recharged my mind, body and soul.

For the first half of the year, I spent my time in Taipei, Taiwan. I go back to Taiwan once a year but I’ve never spent more than 2 months there getting to really know the people, culture and surroundings. This time I worked with the Bali Psychiatric Center conducting medical assessments and psychotherapy group sessions with drug addicts in a prison. I was a bit nervous initially working one-on-one with drug addicts, some of whom even openly confessed to me that they’ve committed murder in the past. But as I forced myself to listen and get to know these people, I grew to appreciate and relate to their struggles and hopes.

Each person had a story to tell. One individual started using heroin because he wanted to numb the pain and depression he felt after his son passed away. One individual suffered from HIV/AIDS but received minimal treatment and counseling inside prison. One individual was(is) a pastor who was clean for 10 years but one day succumbed to using drugs again.

The more I listened, the more I identified with what Abraham Lincoln once said about alcoholics, that we who have never fallen victim “have been spared more from absence of appetite, than from any mental or moral superiority over those who have.” After knowing what these individuals have gone through and the type of environment they live in, I can say that I would be in their situation if I were handed a different fate in life (instead of like the one in this picture).

I feel lucky to have such a supportive and loving family, even a couple of thousand miles away in Taiwan. My uncle and cousins (pictured above) took great care of me while I lived by myself and I was also able to get to know them better, as well as spend good quality time with my ailing grandfather. Although my grandfather has been suffering from a stroke for the past decade, he still loves to tell his war stories from the 1940s!

I think the combination of getting to know both people from different backgrounds and people closely connected to my background ingrained in me a newfound appreciation of the various communities and relationships around me.

Throughout college (and also high school), I was stuck in an academic bubble with the sole focus of getting good grades. Now as I enter into med school I hope to carry the lessons I’ve learned this past year with me, even when I venture into the deepest, darkest corners of Widener Library!

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