Why did you choose this program?
I have always had a passion for medicine, but I didn't know if that was what I wanted to do in the future. I was living in Vietnam at that time and decided to try something new during my Semester Break.
I was able to find Projects Abroad after searching the internet and their website looked really organized. I spent some time reading reviews from past volunteers and information about the company, and I could see they were trustworthy and successful.
I decided to choose them not only because of that, but also because I came across the perfect program for me -- two weeks in Tanzania where I would learn about the basics of medicine while engaging with the culture of the place and doing volunteer work.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The Projects Abroad team was exceptional in the organization of my trip. I only had to upload a copy of my passport and a parent consent form, and they organized my accommodation, my flight tickets and made sure I was updated on everything through emails and their website.
Their website has all the information about the trip (even a step-by-step document for me to prepare), the schedule, visa requirements and packing list - which was extremely helpful.
My supervisor for the project would also be constantly contacting me through email to give me support, and we had about three phone calls before the trip to make sure I didn't have any doubts and was prepared for my project.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
The advice I would give is to adapt to situations. The project is designed to change your perspective on things, and to open your eyes to a "new world".
Sometimes you won't be able to do the things you want to do (such as going at the supermarket at the desired time) or have the routine you wish to have, or you will have to do things you never imagined you would do (such as the experience in Maasai Village -- don't worry, you will love it) and you have to be able to engage with these and get the most out of them.
Additionally, chose the four week program over the two weeks. At first two weeks might seem like a long time, but in goes by in a blink of an eye, and you will want to stay for longer in the end.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
The High School medical special has been designed to provide volunteers with little or no medical experience an opportunity to learn about medicine. During the week, we would have workshops about medical topics, such as surgery, HIV, tropical diseases and several others.
Not only that, but we would also have cultural workshops to help us learn a lot more about the country and the Tanzanian language, Swahili. After each workshop about medicine, we would visit a hospital in the city, to experience what we learned first hand.
Over the two weeks, we could apply some of our newly-gained knowledge by participating in medical outreach, such as the ones in the Engikaret village and the Moshi Orphanage. Occasionally we would have special activities such as going to the Maasai Craft Market, to the Snake Park, having a cooking class and appreciating cultural dance performances. We would normally have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at our accommodation, but sometimes we would have special meals in restaurants.
Projects Abroad also organized programs for the weekend we spent there. There was a visit to Tarangire National Park on Saturday, where I had my first safari experience, and a climb to Mount Meru on Sunday to see its waterfalls. The schedule and activities exceeded my expectations and I'm grateful to have been able to enjoy every second of it.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was traveling by myself to Africa, a continent I have never been before. Also, culture shock. Nonetheless, by engaging with the project and allowing myself to experience a bit of everything, I fell in love with the country and its people, and by the end of two weeks, I didn't want to go back home.
I was also scared because I had no experience in medicine and I thought other volunteers would have it. But the project is specifically designed for us to start to learn about it and everyone is in the "same boat".
What was your most memorable experience?
My most memorable experience was definitely visiting the Maasai Village. Aside from getting to learn about their rich and ancient culture, I was able to visit their huts, appreciate their "jumping" ceremony and - even though speaking different languages - communicate with them.
Nonetheless, the part of the visit that was most remarkable was when I drank goat's blood. Yes, goat's blood. As one of their traditions, the Maasai people kill a goat to cook for us (in the middle of nowhere) and we drank its blood as they believe it has healing properties. It was disgusting and exciting at the same time, and it was the most incredible, unique and odd experience I have had in my entire life.