Life Is Like Mapping A Tattoo, My Journey Through Erasmus (Part 1)

My name is Andy Pham. I’m a fourth-year student at the University of Washington Bothell and was also another student accepted into the Erasmus exchange program through South East Technological University. I’m currently majoring in public health with minors in health education and global health and look to carry those ambitions of healthy communities into modern day public health projects across the world. My passions for public health originally came from my aspirations of working in the medical field, however the global pandemic shifted my interests into community health and creating a difference globally and improving the quality of life for everyone. Here’s a little narration of my experiences so far from a personal level.

I want you to imagine a piece of your life that can be represented onto one image. How does it make you feel? Where would the placement be? What stories does it reminisce on? What did you learn from it? Those are the qualities of a tattoo that symbolize someone’s life journey. For myself, tattooing isn’t just a form of art, but a rendition of one’s personal obstacles, life events and moments of true happiness, a version of philosophy that I’m truly passionate about. For me, my journey and challenges through my time in Ireland are not only highlighted through the enjoyment I get of mapping tattoos that symbolize myself as an individual, but connecting the challenges, struggles and moments of enjoyment that came in my time here. 

My love for tattoos came very early on, where I saw many of my role-models growing up getting tattoos as a way to narrate a story. Despite knowing the stigma behind tattoos in Asian culture and immigrant parents, in my heart I knew this was something I needed to do in my life to feel confident and fulfilled. Of course with the alarming-expensive pricing of tattoos in the US, I didn’t ever have the guts to do them. I was always scared about what my parents would say. Would they disown me? How do I even begin discussing the positives of tattooing?? Of course after having discussions with them, they understood the impact it would have on my life, cosmetically and philosophically. Upon my arrival to Ireland, I knew this was an opportunity for me to illustrate forms of art on my body that could recall moments I wanted to share with the world. 

Truthfully, this experience has been one of the most mentally challenging obstacles I’ve faced in my life. Being more of an ambivert, I lost all my in-person social connections with my family and friends. Hell, I lost my car and my ability to drive around everywhere while even getting the flu as I boarded the plane. I lost my room a place that gave me time to mentally recharge and connect me with my best friends to play video games, I was left with my thoughts which spiraled out of control. All I did during my first few weeks was mentally sulk in thoughts of wanting to go home and return to all the things that made me feel complete as a human being. I’ve struggled heavily with mental health issues before and this was a new feeling. I felt so alone and immediately wanted to quit, I even looked at the first tickets out of Ireland at one point. How in the world would I navigate this new mental health challenge?? Knowing the long journey ahead of me, I had to find ways to gain that happiness back, which led me to getting my first tattoo.

Life Is Like Mapping A Tattoo, My Journey Through Erasmus (Part 1)

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