Although I graduated from the United World College Red Cross Nordic (UWCRCN) over a decade ago, I still think of my two years in Flekke often and refer to them as the best two years of my life. It was during these two years that I not only learned a lot about myself, including my core values and passions, but also about the world. I am grateful to have lived and learned with other young people from across the world and different social, economic and cultural backgrounds at such a tender age. Not surprisingly, my two years in Flekke have had a huge impact on who I am today, and the choices that I have made.

When I graduated from UWCRCN on a sunny spring day in May 2004, I was not exactly sure what career path I wanted to take, so I was thrilled to do a UWCRCN supported Third Year Option Project that allowed me to volunteer at a school and hostel for children in rural India for several months followed by travelling around the world. I felt a keen sense of wanting to contribute to making the world a better place after having lived a life of plenty of opportunities growing up in northern Europe. When I reflect back on my time with the excited and curious kids I was fortunate to meet, I am certain they taught me more than I ever taught them.

After a year of learning, growing and exploring, I moved across the world to study Sociology and Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Resisting the urge to select a program that had a clearly identifiable career outcome, I decided to learn more about how society and the world we live in shape the health of individuals and communities. In my final year, I found myself as an intern at an Indigenous community health centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. There a dedicated Family Physician and advocate showed me the many possibilities for promoting social change as a Family Physician, as he tirelessly helped and advocated for patients whose lives were complicated by poverty, homelessness, complex medical conditions, addiction, and trauma. I remember clearly the day when I decided: “I want to do what he does!”

My path in medicine has not always been linear or easy, but it has been guided by my core values, which has always provided me with a sense of purpose and being “at home”. It is this “at home” feeling, which I can take with me wherever I go on my journey, which is one of the greatest gifts that the UWCRCN experience has given me.

Jeanette S. Pedersen is half Danish and half Thai. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband. She completed her medical school training at the University of Calgary, Canada, and is currently a Family Medicine Resident at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She considers herself fortunate to be training at St. Paul’s Hospital and in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – the community that inspired her to become a Physician.

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