Being a Gator for six months (part 1 of 2)

After a month of leaving Gainesville and still with nostalgia for my departure, I draw strength to tell you about my experience at the One Health Center of Excellence.

How it all began

It all started in the summer of 2017 when somebody told me about a prestigious Italian doctor who was running an “institute” of One Health at the University of Florida. I was in the third year of my doctorate and had to find an internship abroad, just as the requirements of my scholarship demanded it. In my native country (Colombia), the feats of Ilaria Capua had not had the same recognition as in the developed countries; therefore, I must confess that I had no idea about it.

Despite my ignorance, knowing how to read and social networks, I was able to quickly find out who this Italian veterinarian was and her revolutionary path in public health. I have always loved revolutions, especially those that are consistent with knowledge; from a very young age, I have been a voluntary outlaw of methods and traditional knowledge. The thing is, by the ideals represented by the UF OHC captivated me and of course, the academic interests within my doctoral training.

After a visa application process and adaptation of my conditions in Colombia, I arrived in Gainesville in August 2018. When I arrived at the OHC, I found a very interesting work team, of course, headed by Dr. Ilaria Capua; the team was complemented by Rania Gollakner (master’s in public health and veterinarian) and Olga Muñoz (master’s in One Health and veterinarian), the Doctor in Classics Sara Agnelli and Russell Anderson with a master’s in Sustainable Development. I was surprised that it was a small group, and then I understood that the center had been operating for less than a year; despite being a very “young” working group, they combined very well, were disciplined, and had great aspirations.

Adjusting to a new place

It was not difficult for me to empathize with the dynamics of the group; I must say, from the beginning I felt welcomed and they made things as easy as possible so that my adaptation was the most appropriate. Although adapting to the OHC was easy, doing it in Gainesville’s everyday life was not so easy. I spent my first month (of six), taking out a bank account, signing papers, doing the check-in at UF, going to the business office for my payments and learning how to move around the city. It is difficult when you come from Colombian cities where everything is closer and several bureaucratic environments tend to be friendlier; let me say that the learning was from the beginning.

I really had a great time during my stay in Florida; I was lucky enough to find a good roommate. I spend time with friends that I have kept for 20 years, made new ones, visited several places in the state, spent Thanksgiving with my family in New York, but also spent Christmas without my family and my fiancée … But it helped me to reaffirm the new friendships and live other experiences.

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