Initially, it was all about getting the gist of what life is like outside of my comfort zone, coupled with that would be getting a glimpse of the health care system in a totally different place from what I'm used to (Europe-Russia, Africa-Zambia). I wanted to meet an entirely new type of people, learn their culture, their values, and their history (which I knew nothing of prior to going there).
Alumni Spotlight: Kapalasa Viola Kasempa
Kapalasa is a final year medical student from Zambia, currently studying in Moscow, Russia. She is very adventurous and strong minded, out to achieve the best in everything she does. Kapalasa is enthusiastic about traveling to new places, passionate about the health and well-being of people, and loves learning new languages - she is currently fluent in four and conversant in two others!
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
All the logistics of living and interning in Colombia was handled by the company and more specifically by the program coordinator, all I needed to do was hand in specific documents and pay the fee.
My University didn't play a major role except that of exempting me from the hospital elective course that I should have taken had I not applied for the internship. The visa, translation of documents, and the flight was paid for by me.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I like to figure things out on my own, to create my own story and perception of things and places and so whatever I may have wanted to know prior, I eventually found out and it only worked for my good.
If someone's going to intern specifically in the medical sphere with TIG/ILA and the person is not a native Spanish speaker then the only advice would be to work on their Spanish.
Being open minded is very important. It's not about your new hosts living up to your expectations, it's about you learning to fit into their home and their culture - you know, blending in!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Well, an average day starts very early. I was up roughly by 5 am and left my apartment around or before 6 so that I could get to the hospital a few minutes before 7 am and do my morning rounds with the local interns.
After taking note of the patients' condition, their vital signs and what they tell us of how they slept, we'd take down notes and present them to the head doctor and consultants during the major ward round which would start at 9:30 am.
From 10:45 till 11:30 am we would be busy with data entry and updates of the clinical history of all the patients as well as examining of the new entries. Basic patient care and attending to emergencies would take until 1 pm when my working day would end.
I visited museums, toured the city with friends, tried out local dishes in various restaurants and small eating places.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
Considering that most of the people that knew that I was going to Colombia all expressed their negative views about the country and how dangerous it is, I think my biggest fear was running into the wrong crowd, or finding myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, something that would have been threatening to my well being.
How did I overcome this? Firstly I adhered to all the safety guidelines the in-country team gave to us. Secondly, I stayed away from places they told us not to be in and I tried my best to blend in. By my second week, I felt like a local.
How did my views change? Paisas are probably the warmest people I know. Everyone is just so friendly and open and willing to help. This dispelled any negative comments that anyone may have expressed.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I think the biggest mistakes I made were: (1) not doing this program earlier and (2) not staying there longer. Four weeks is not nearly enough to paint a full picture of how beautiful my experience was.
What is your favorite story from your time abroad?
A friend of mine and I stayed in an open mall till 4 am playing truth or dare. We completely lost track of time, had ice cream, and walked from floor to floor coming up with weird things to dare each other to do.
My favorite was when he asked me to hug the cleaning lady. At first, she was so scared and sort of held back but then she warmed up and smiled at me (I hope that made her night because it certainly made mine)!