Invaluable Honors Fellowship


by Sam Rao, 19C
Spanish and Portuguese

Even though I’ve only been here at the Fox Center for a short time, the depth of discussion and exchange of ideas has been amazing for me to experience. It has forced me to think about the implications of my project and its significance beyond its context. I am writing my thesis on the diffusion of psychoanalysis in Argentina, and how a specific form of treatment, the multifamily group therapy session, impacts individuals. I spent 6 weeks in Buenos Aires, the capital city, attending these sessions as a participant-observer, gathering notes on the contributions of participants. My aim was to demonstrate a cultural view of mental health that is different from my own understanding coming from the United States, and also to provide real-world examples of treatment in action. The Fox Center has been instrumental to my understanding of not only my own project, but also to forming my point of view about the world around me.

In my project, I recount personal stories from participants about their struggles and experiences. As an ethnographic researcher, I had to accurately and unbiasedly portray these narratives in a thoughtful and nuanced way in which I could draw broader, more universal conclusions that could apply outside of the psychoanalytic or Argentine context. Some of them were heartbreaking stories of suffering, other more mundane feelings or emotions. However, sometimes it was difficult for me to make sense of them in a way that would be relevant and engaging to my thesis. The weekly lunches at the Fox Center really inspired me to form my own voice as a researcher. The amazing quality of presentations by the fellows showed me that research can be personal just as much as it is academic. In addition, the 2 roundtable discussions among the undergraduate honors fellows contributed a positive exchange of ideas that helped all of us better formulate our questions and frameworks for our projects. I will forever be grateful to be part of such an outstanding academic community!

Sam Rao is a senior on the pre-medical track majoring in Spanish and Portuguese. His senior thesis is a comparison of models of mental healthcare in Argentina and the United States. Argentine society, particularly in the capital of Buenos Aires, is heavily involved in the discipline of psychoanalysis and encourages individuals to share openly their mental health as a form of treatment. On the other hand, American treatment of mental health is more medicalized and relies primarily on prescription of medication. Sam traveled to Argentina in the summer of 2018 to observe psychoanalytic group therapy sessions in order to gather ethnographic data. He hopes to use this thesis to learn more about cultural understandings of health and how that could improve treatment outcomes as a prospective physician.

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