Mark is a fourth-year student in the faculty of science at the University of Ottawa. He is taking an Honors in Biomedical Science as well as actively volunteering in his church and community.
Why did you choose this program?
My interests lie in the field of medicine and I have been looking for possible ways to acquire experience in a medical institution to really make the decision of whether or not medicine is right for me.
This program offered an opportunity for students to work alongside doctors and other healthcare professions to observe and learn about operations, how to diagnose patients and many other important skills required as a doctor. This was an opportunity that would never be available to students in Canada.
In addition, because of Ecuador's devastating earthquake that happened in 2016, many families were left without homes. This program gave us a chance to help rebuild houses for these victims. I wanted to explore outside of my isolated bubble in Canada to experience what it's like for these people who have lost everything.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The leaders at my university were very supportive in providing us with all the information we needed about the trip and fundraising. They organized group fundraisers for the students to participate in to help raise money for the building supplies for the houses.
They also supplied us with fundraiser plans that we could follow to help raise money on our own. They made our goals very clear and did all they could to make the fundraising and preparations for the trip as smooth as possible.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Quito is the capital city of Ecuador and where you will be spending the majority of your time. Since it is at such a high elevation, the weather tends to be chilly so remember to pack a lot of warm clothing. The only places where the weather gets warm is when your group starts traveling.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
For the first two weeks we had medical rotations, so we would wake up early and go to the hospitals for about 5 hours. When we finished our rotation, we would head back to the hostel and then explore the city.
On the weekend, we would travel to the building site where we would work on the houses for the whole day. When we started the traveling portion of the program, we would bus to a new location where our days would be filled with adventurous activities.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I came into the program afraid of not being prepared enough because I only went over the medical rotation manual once, but throughout our rotations, we would work with med school students who refreshed our memories on the information. This made it easier to recall what we needed for those days.
Would you prefer to not travel as much and instead stay at fewer places for a longer duration?
While it was true that we would usually only stay in one place for about a day before moving on to the next location, I believe this was optimal because you were getting a little taste of everything.
Fewer locations would be less work for the coordinators, but I understand why they strive to provide us with as many new experiences as possible. We are on a tight schedule for the whole trip and I prefer that because we are squeezing out as much as we can from the time we have