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Samantha Benedicto studies traditional medicine in China with SIT Study Abroad

Samantha Benedicto, a 4th year double major in Psychology and Human Health, spent over seven weeks completing her Field Experience in Kunming, China through SIT’s Community Health and Traditional Chinese Medicine Program.  The program provided engagement with China’s system of integrated healthcare where Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western medicine coexist.

Samantha learned about the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine and various approaches to public health at the Yunnan Provincial Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital through daily lectures led by health experts and practice sessions guided by professional TCM doctors. After lecture, Samantha took daily Chinese language classes in order to better facilitate cultural immersion.

Not only did Samantha learn about the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of TCM practices, but she also had the opportunity to practice these techniques. Each week, the program focused on a different TCM practice, including Chinese massage (tuina), moxibustion, cupping, acupuncture, and herbal remedies. Additionally, field excursions were offered throughout the program, which included visiting health care facilities in rural areas. These excursions taught Samantha about ethnic minority healing systems, such as Daoist Qigong, Bai traditional herbal medicine, Naxi Dongba shamanism, and Tibetan medicine.

Learning about the theoretical basis of traditional Chinese medicine was a bit challenging because of how dense the material was. TCM has such a rich history that one wouldn’t be able to fully understand everything in just seven weeks. Concepts themselves are also very different- learning about organs and their functions in TCM is not the same as what we would learn about in Western medicine. While this part of the field experience was a challenge, Samantha really appreciated the lectures they had on these topics because that is when she felt her perspective on health and medicine expand the most. Samantha learned how to appreciate the knowledge a culture different from her own offers and she is now more cognizant of not just viewing health from a Western perspective, but making sure to be culturally sensitive.

An increased self-confidence and wonderful memories of such intense cultural immersion were some of the most valuable features Samantha brought back from her field experience. She had never traveled on her own before, let alone to a country where she didn’t speak the language or know anyone. Going abroad for her field experience really helped Samantha become more independent and made her more confident in herself- she knew she could trust the decisions she made and grew in her communication skills, not just with the locals but with her fellow group of students, all from different backgrounds. Samantha loved learning a new language despite not having much time to become proficient in speaking Mandarin. Being forced to get out of her  comfort zone both in and out of the classroom allowed for much growth. Samantha learned a lot about herself and what she was capable of and how to appreciate cultural practices and perspectives different from her own, not just regarding health, but ways of life.

Samantha is looking forward to taking part in the senior capstone which will present an opportunity to not only reflect on her own field experience, but to learn about the experiences of her peers and their areas of interest. She is also taking a class on indigenous healing in Latin America which she is particularly excited for because she learned about minority healing systems in China as well as the interplay of Western and traditional Chinese medicine.

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