Tales from our Alumni: A new perspective

Eye-opening hospital work experience
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Rita Stevenson – sophomore biology major from Montana, US – joined Gap Medics for a two-week placement in Tanzania in Summer 2015. She left with a new perspective on world issues, her medical career and herself. 

Rita with her fellow Gap Medics students

Here, Rita chats with her college newspaper about the experience:

Tell us about your experience and your impressions of Tanzania?

I traveled with a program called Gap Medics, a UK-based organisation that offers international shadowing experiences for pre-medical, pre-nursing, pre-dentistry, and pre-midwifery students. It’s an amazing program where students work alongside doctors in a hospital setting and get to see and experience firsthand fascinating medical procedures. The local staff also provides cultural immersion and opportunities to see the area that you’re staying (for example, students have the option of a two-day safari where you also get to meet a native tribe of Masai people). 

“I learned so much about gratitude, community and love from them.”

I spent my time in a city called Iringa, working in a regional hospital. I spent one week in Pediatrics and the second week in obstetrics and Gynecology. Not only were the medical experiences amazing – I dealt with cases of HIV/ AIDS, severe malaria, extreme malnutrition, sat in on surgeries, and even got to help with some minor tasks in a cesarean section delivery of twins – the country itself was astounding. The scenery was gorgeous and the locals were some of the kindest, most welcoming people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Compared to American standards, these people have so little but would be happy to share whatever they do have with you. I learned so much about gratitude, community, and love from them.

What did you expect from your experience? Any surprises?

Going into my experience, I expected an amazing medical experience, a new cultural and world perspective, and the chance to make some new acquaintances. I came away with so much more than that. I left Africa with lifelong friendships not only with the remarkable local staff, but with fellow students from all over the globe. I found a new career direction which now includes wanting to become a midwife rather than an MD. I was given an entirely new perspective on world issues, medical care, and even an entirely new perspective on myself. It might sound cliché, but I can honestly say that it was an altogether life-changing experience. I did not expect to be as profoundly impacted and changed in a way that really cannot be described.

“I did not expect to be as profoundly impacted and changed in a way that really cannot be described.”

What would you tell a fellow student who is considering studying or interning abroad?

To any student who even has an inkling that they may want to go abroad: do it. I know that school is busy and stressful but find a way to have an experience outside of your comfort zone; it adds to your education in a way that you will never regret. Volunteering, studying, or interning abroad give you experiences much deeper and more meaningful than simply being a tourist… why not get your hands a little dirty while you’re there? 

“…it adds to your education in a way that you will never regret.”

Do you have plans to do any further study or service abroad?

I plan on traveling to Uganda with Carroll’s Engineers Without Borders chapter in the coming years and would love to spend a semester studying abroad also. I also hope to continue doing shadowing with Gap Medics throughout my college years.

This interview is reproduced with the kind permission of Carroll College. It first appeared in Carroll Alumni magazine (Summer 2015). Rita is currently saving for a trip to Thailand with Gap Medics.

Gap Medics Alumni with a story to share? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us on Facebook or Twitter, or email info@gapmedics.com.

Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing programmes offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training. 

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