Group Dynamics & My New Community

Morocco to Italy

This past week I said goodbye to Morocco and hello to the small town of Pavia, Italy. I was filled with excitement to begin my Medical Shadowing Program in Italy, but sad to leave behind my kiddos, the wonders of the Sahara Desert, and the bustling streets of Morocco. As I made my transition from Morocco to Italy my Dad said to me “I know it will be hard to beat Morocco, but I hope you enjoy your time in Italy.” At the time I did not feel that my experience in Morocco would overpower or be superior to my experience in Italy: there were many experiences and places to visit that I was looking forward to, but the cultural difference and community dynamics were a bigger change than I had expected.

First, my residential community: in Morocco I lived with five other girls volunteering within a variety of programs—journalism, woman empowerment, medical volunteering, and my program which was childcare. Our strength as a group was each persons drive to explore new ideas and endure new experiences: despite our different career interests, our shared ambition led to mutual understanding for independent exploring but also group plans to a local Hamam, surfing, and endless nights walking in the medinas or sitting at the beach. In Italy, I am with 11 other students who share a common interest in the medical field and pursuing a career in Medicine. I have enjoyed hearing about which specialties they are interested in and career plans they have as it has introduced new options and doors for me to explore as I figure out my future. However, outside of medicine and our hours at the hospital, the individuals in the group are much less independent, reliant on group consensus, and lack the ambition to explore the new communities around them.

As an independent person and someone who is eager to see what new places offer, I am struggling to connect with the peers in my new community. Within the hospital I have enjoyed every second of my experience: seeing surgeries for the first time along side my friend Jenna as we stand in awe and curiosity, engaging with doctors and residents, and listening to my peers’ stories of their days experience at the hospital at group dinners. After shadowing hours however, the group dynamic for me lacks ambition, adventure, and curiosity. I am struggling to decide between sticking with the group and doing my own exploring as the group often decides to lounge over opportunities to see new places like Milan or venture to different parts of Pavia. In this respect, I feel my dad may be right that Morocco may trump Italy but I intend to make the most of my experience in Italy. I plan to reach out to new communities in Italy as I did in Morocco: I am contacting a local dance studio, reaching out to doctors specializing in neuroscience outside of Pavia and in bigger cities such as Milan, and networking with the doctors and residents I meet in my hospital in Pavia.   

New Concepts of Community

My struggle to find my place in my new community has taught me that shared career interest is not everything when it comes to forming new relationships: you can find shared interests in personality and past experiences that mean much more than what you plan to do in your future. The key to discovering these unique commonalities and connections is being vulnerable enough to initiate a conversation and open up about my past and life experiences—something I found easier to do with my peers in Morocco versus Italy. Similarly, my time away has shown me my struggle to step outside of my independence and put group interests first.

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