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Love at Third Sight, Deep in the Heart of Texas

By Marta Lange, CIEE Baltic-American Freedom Foundation Intern

Admiring the statue of cardiac surgeon Dr. Michael E. DeBakey at Houston Methodist Hospital

It was a cold and windy December morning as I left my beloved, snowy Latvia and landed in sunny Texas. Houston greeted me with skyscrapers, palm trees with Christmas lights and a swimming pool in my backyard. In the so called Lone Star State Texas you can find surprises on every corner. At the beginning for me: a person who comes from a country of 2-million people getting used to Houston was pretty hard. Understanding people, their culture, the size of life, city and food portions was quite a challenge. At the beginning I stubbornly did not want to admit that I was experiencing culture shock, but now looking back I realize I had it.

At first I struggled with small talk in the elevators and the fake-smile "how-are-you" culture. To be honest, this positive attitude sticks, and now after a year I can say that I will miss saying "Hi" to complete strangers on the street. The Southern hospitality in Texas is something that a very Nordic person like me will never forget. That is one thing I could not understand at the beginning, but now I like it! That is one of the factors that really made me love Texans: being polite, and really meaning it, opening the doors for each other, saying "ma'am" and "sir" to everyone regardless the age. I fell in love with Houston only after two trips away from it. I had to leave it and come back to realize that I love it. The value and magic at the same time is the Texan people.

International experience enriches someone who has lived abroad, especially if you are in close contact with the locals and other foreigners. Tasting the culture, enjoying the adventure of something unknown. Then, leaving the place that has been your home for several months or years, you always leave and take something, so at the end your Home is everywhere. That is what the international exchange means to me: the inspiring people I meet and the feeling that I can find something to relate with, to feel like at Home in every place I visit. It feels like being a migrant bird that flies forth and back every season.

After the training of every Medical Engineer's dream: the Da Vinci Surgical System during the "Re-Evolution Summitt" at Houston Methodist Hospital

My internship took place in Cardiovascular Surgery Department of Houston Methodist Hospital. The main fields of research included radiation safety, robotic tele-presence systems and ultrasound diagnostics. Also, I have gained a whole lot more skills and strengths that cannot be measured, but have significantly improved, like leadership, management, language and networking skills that will help to develop my ideas in the future.

When I return home in Latvia, I would like to continue my work in the field of Medical Devices, innovations and research. Our current Healthcare system is about to experience a lot of changes, and I would like to give my input. I feel that we have to remember the simple things, the simple truth: that the priority is the patient and only healthy and happy, satisfied people can build a strong society in a country. Last but not least, my dream is to improve the conditions, environment, the system and funding for the Nursing homes and Hospices in Latvia.

Working together with colleagues for a radiation safety project in the Hybrid Operation Room at Houston Methodist Research Institute

I strongly believe that the young professionals from programs, like BAFF, HAESF and other organizations have the capabilities and the necessary skill set to become leaders and make a change for a better future!

The J-1 Visitor Exchange Program is a wonderful opportunity to experience The United States, immersing yourself into the life, the culture, the work, what is most important - the people. For sure, this program gives great opportunities for your chosen career path and even greater possibilities to network and share ideas!

Building bridges with Hilton Lam during Intern Leadership Enrichment and Development program (I-LEAD) in Washington, DC