Katie’s Amazing Time in Tanzania!

Eye-opening hospital work experience
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Katie Nelson signed up for a Gap Medics placement in September 2012, and from then on out, was counting down the days until June 2013 where she would embark on what was sure to be the adventure of a lifetime in Tanzania. Now having returned from her placement back home in the United States, Katie recalls her amazing hospital work experience and the people who made her trip that extra bit more special… 

Student Katie Nelson and her mentor“Hi! I’m Katie, from Minnesota and I just finished a five-week placement in Tanzania this summer. If you’re reading this and on the fence as to whether this is something you should do… DO IT.

Prior to leaving for my trip, I was really unsure about whether or not medical school was for me. I had always had my heart set on being a physician, but I really didn’t know if I could do it. Tanzania gave me clarity that this is really right for me. It gave me motivation for the long road ahead. It made me excited, about the idea of being able to help people – make them better.

Katie at the Orphanage in Tanzania

Upon arriving in Iringa, I was overwhelmed by how welcoming everyone was. The students staying at the house came out to greet us and carry our luggage inside, and the staff were SO excited to have us there.Between the staff in the UK and everyone at the house – all of my questions were answered, and everything went so smoothly.

But, obviously the best part of this experience is the hospital placement. With living in the United States, gaining hospital work experience is difficult. Job observations are hard to arrange, as there are so many different policies in place. However, on placement you’re able to be right up close, which was so great. I cannot say enough good things about the mentors; they are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life. Not only did they teach me a lot about medicine, but also by simply watching them interact with their patients, I was able to learn even more about what it takes to be a great physician.

Katie and a friend in the hospital in TanzaniaWhen we weren’t at the hospital, there was always something fun for us to do in our free time. We loved going into town and shopping at the market, and visiting the orphanages was definitely a highlight of my time. One weekend we gathered a group and went horseback riding, which was so much fun! We also visited the Isimila Stone Age Site. If there was ever something we were dying to do, the staff organized everything for us.   

I know when it comes to traveling to other countries, people feel skeptical. Obviously, there are risks, but honestly this trip was the best thing I’ve ever done. I made lifelong friends in the other students at the house, the staff, and even in my mentors at Iringa Regional Hospital. I’m constantly getting e-mails from them, and I love it. We’ve all come home feeling so motivated to give back, after having such a life-changing experience. I fell in love with Tanzania, especially with the people, and I can’t wait to go back!”

-Katie Nelson, 20, United States

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