Alumni Spotlight: Kyla Evans

Kyla is in her last semester of Nursing school at Ryerson University, and she previously obtained a degree in Health Sciences. She has a special interest in women and infant's health and hopes to work as a labour and delivery nurse after graduating. She lives in Toronto, Ontario with her two cats and her partner.

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Why did you choose this program?

I wanted to choose a program that I felt would give me experience working with women and children - something I was worried I wouldn't get enough practice with through my school placements.

Better yet, I really liked FIMRC's globally responsible focus on local culture and sustainability. The way they choose projects that are influenced by collaboration with local citizens is a much better way to do things than I've seen with other organizations.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

FIMRC sent lots of information in advance, like where and who I'd be living with, what activities a typical day would consist of, and some of the tourist things to do in my spare time, etc.

They also set up an online dashboard where I could upload my flight information (I arranged my flights separately) and keep track of the money I had paid/raised towards the trip. I was able to share this dashboard with friends and family who wanted to donate to my trip!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Not knowing the local language can create some strong feelings of isolation at first. That's okay, you will work through this. Obviously you won't become an expert in a new language overnight, but it makes a big difference just to learn a few key phrases before you go, and locals will appreciate that you're trying. Remember that you will definitely learn more as time goes on, and you'll be surprised how much you know by the time you're done!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

As a SIHF, you bike to the clinic from your host family's home each morning. You may go out in the community with a translator on different visits that day (such as prenatal health or diabetes check-ins) or you may stay and organize the pediatric clinic: taking vitals on patients or conducting developmental assessments, etc.

If you're at the clinic, you may get to sit in on pediatric visits and learn about the diagnoses and treatments for the patient. After work, volunteers usually go together to a local beach or cafe before heading home to have dinner with their host families.

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'd never been that far away from home before on my own, so there was just a lot of fear of the unknown. I was also worried about how I'd communicate knowing so little Spanish. I didn't really overcome the fears so much as I forgot about them. There were some homesick moments for sure, but you adapt with time and get so caught up in what you're doing that you're amazed how fast time flies.

How would you describe this experience in Nicaragua?

You get out of this experience what you put in, and you have to go with an open mind and a willingness to try anything. Also, remember where you are and be grateful for the opportunity. Practicing in a culturally competent and safe way makes a big difference for your patients, and will help you to have a more positive, authentic experience overall.