When you have the most loving and caring friends and family, it extremely difficult to keep a secret.
Let me start from the beginning. When I was in middle school, two of my brother’s friends became Borlaug-Ruan International Interns. Being the helpful individuals they are, they told me all about the experience and encouraged me to get involved with World Food Prize (WFP) as well. Once I entered high school, Mr. Horton (my AP Bio teacher) told our class about WFP, tying in Dr. Norman Borlaug’s research to our genetics unit.
After all of the good things I had heard, I had to apply. Last January I began my journey with World Food Prize by writing a paper about water scarcity in India. The paper outlined the issue and various solutions that could be implemented in the short term. Under the guidance of Mr. Horton, Mrs. Haynes-Moore, and my parents, I crafted a paper that eventually led me to the Iowa Youth Institute in April, followed by the Global Youth Institute (GYI) in October. GYI was a phenomenal experience where I was introduced to many students from around the country with similar interest, previous interns who shared their stories, and renowned farmers and scientists who encouraged our generation to make a difference in the fight for food security.
That experience truly invigorated me and further persuaded me to apply for the Borlaug-Ruan Internship. This program allows high school and college students to work at a research facility in one of twenty worksite across the world. Students either work socially with farmers, in labs with plants, or with animal. By December of last year I submitted my application. Every day I eagerly checked my mail and finally in the first week of February I received notice that I had been selected for the interview process. The process went quite well and we were told that we would find out if we made it by the beginning of March. All the interns were on edge and the morning of March 13th I had a conversation with a fellow intern wondering if he had heard back from World Food Prize. Neither one of us had so we both assumed that we hadn’t made it. Less than an hour later I received an email congratulating me on getting the internship! The catch however was we didn’t know where we were going and we weren’t allowed to tell anyone outside our immediate family. The reason for the initial secrecy was that not all the interns had received their email yet and the World Food Prize Organization wanted to make an official press release. By the end of the month I had found out I was placed in Turkey but couldn’t tell anyone for over a month after that. That was honestly the most difficult part of the process. Like I mentioned earlier, I have amazing friends, all of whom were eager to find out and I felt awful telling them I hadn’t heard back yet, but I knew I had to.
Finally at the beginning of May all 23 of us interns had our orientation meeting and were able to publicize the information. In the past few weeks I have been very busy getting everything ready for the trip. I had a bit of a scare with my visa initially (I didn’t think it would come in time) but I was extremely lucky to get it two weeks before my departure. For packing, I ended up using my brother’s entire room to get situated… (before and after pics)
I have gotten a chance to talk to the intern who went to Turkey last year, Adam. He has been extremely helpful and has assured me that I am in for a summer I will never forget with the most hospitable people ever. I also contacted Dr. Amer, who will be one of my mentors while I am in Turkey. After that simple conversation via email, I can’t wait to meet him and his family.
For the next two months I will be working at the CIMMYT Research facilities in Turkey. While I don’t know too much about my exact research, it looks like I will be working with soil pathogens and nematodes to understand how wheat production can be increased. Currently, the plan is for me to work in Eskisehir (this may change). I found out earlier today that there will be a PhD student from Australia at Eskisehir for the whole two month period with me!
So tomorrow morning I get to wake up bright and early, take the ACT and then go straight to Des Moines to catch my flight. I will go from Des Moines to Chicago to Istanbul and finally Ankara (I will go to Eskisehir by train later). While it has been a little stressful, I would really like to thank all the friends and family who have helped me with this process and spent time with me this past week before I leave. I know I will miss everyone a lot but I will am very excited about this journey.
Sorry this was an extremely long post! I will keep all of you updated 🙂