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Postgrad: Carlin Gettliffe ’09 Pt. 1

Born and raised in Boulder, CO, Carlin moved to Rochester, NY, after high school to attend school at the University of Rochester. Since graduating in May 2009, Carlin has continued to pursue his love for traveling while co-founding a technology business with two other Rochester alums. This blog post is part of a continuing series of posts (6) about Carlin and his time at the University of Rochester.

By Carlin Gettliffe

“Your turn.” I am told unceremoniously. I am being handed a scalpel. I turn towards thepatient seated in front of me. His leg is extended and resting on a small stand. I smile at him and utilize what little I’ve learned of Hindi to comment on the heat. Sweat is pouring down my face. I carefully cut the old bandage from his foot. I use forceps to pick up cotton balls and dip them one by one into a bright orange disinfectant. One to clean the whole foot. One to clean each wound. One to dry the whole foot. One to dry each wound. What comes next is more difficult. I pick up the scalpel…

His foot re-bandaged, the patient thanks me and gets up to leave, hoisting himself on his crutches. The next patient sits down. Only four more hours to go.

I am just outside of Delhi, India, volunteering in a leprosy colony. I am not a doctor. I am not a nurse. I have never had any medical training. I left the University of Rochester after my freshman year in order to travel around the world. This is baptism by fire, and it’s exactly what I was looking for.

My decision to travel around the world rather than returning to the University of Rochester had been a surprisingly easy one. Despite a positive experience with my first set of professors, Rochester felt a lot like the end of the world to me when I first arrived (I’m exaggerating less than you think).

Having grown up in Boulder, CO, I was used to three hundred days of sun per year, immediate access to nature and mountains, and a predominantly liberal hippie/yuppie crossbreed of people. Rochester, in more ways than one, is the anti-Boulder.

I first heard of the University of Rochester when my aunt and uncle had moved to the area a few years prior. Then, when I was considering studying physics, the name of the school kept on popping up as one with a strong physics and optics program. The university’s size (relatively small) combined with its research focus also made the school an attractive choice. Getting a Rush Rhees scholarship sealed the deal. Had I had things my way I probably would have taken a year off between high school and college. At my parents’ urging, however, I enrolled in college three months after graduating from high school.

My freshman year experience at the University of Rochester was not at all an entirely negative one. On the contrary, there were a great number of positive encounters and experiences that first year. Rather, it was the environment as a whole, socially, culturally, and meteorologically, that presented me with what seemed at the time to be an intractable problem. The feeling I had was much closer to “I don’t think I belong here” than“this is a bad place.”

Feeling frustrated, stifled, and out of place after my first year, I knew I needed to get away. My solution was to get going. Really get going. I hit up France, Switzerland and Italy in the summer, the USA in the fall to work and save up a bit of money, Switzerland again for Christmas, Australia in the early spring (where I worked as a bartender for three months), India in the spring/summer (another three months), and spent the rest of the following summer back in Europe, where I hitchhiked from Copenhagen to Geneva (by way of Germany). Volunteering in a leprosy colony in India is only one of innumerable experiences I had during that year that have impacted who I am and how I see the world.

Delhi is laid out below me, glittering and smoking like a smoldering fire. I’m arriving at the end of my time here.

I visited the Village of Hope leprosy colony for the last time a few days ago, and I can already feel the pull of Europe, my next destination. I’m on the rooftop of an apartment with a group of friends celebrating a birthday, but mostly I’m thinking about whether I want to go back to the University of Rochester or not, and even whether I want to return to school at all. This is a significantly harder decision than the decision to leave in the first place.

ing my first few months at the University of Rochester I climbed to the top of Wilson Commons and hung a small bracelet there. I vowed that it would stay there until I graduated, at which time I would climb up and bring it back down. Sitting on that rooftop in Delhi, India, letting my thoughts trace back to my time in Rochester, I realize that there’s a very real chance that the bracelet may never come down.

To be continued…

[Part 2]

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