Alumni Spotlight: Cody Ritz


Cody is a 3rd year Biology major and Interdisciplinary Humanities minor attending Brigham Young University.

Why did you choose this program?

At the start of the Fall 2017 semester, I knew that I wanted to find some opportunity to travel abroad for a program related to healthcare for the following summer. Upon hearing about the Rwanda Global Health Internship offered at BYU, I immediately felt strongly that it would be a perfect opportunity for me to enhance my world perspective by getting to experience healthcare through a culture outside of America.

I had the privilege of connecting with various immigrants from Rwanda during my time as a missionary in Montréal, Canada, and hearing about this internship opportunity reignited the connection I felt with them. It also fueled a desire to do everything in my capabilities to pursue this opportunity. It just felt right to me.

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

Brigham Young University helped me feel well-prepared for the internship. They gave me some good expectations of what I would be doing, and they also relieved the stress of logistically planning an international trip. The Global Engagement Institute, our program provider, did everything in their power to ensure that I would get the most out of my Rwandan experience. They were extremely accommodating and taught me to really embrace the culture of Rwanda. In addition, they gave me some great opportunities to interact with health professionals of various backgrounds.

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

I would advise anyone considering this internship to spend as much time as you can learning about Rwanda BEFORE you arrive. Rwanda has a unique history and culture, and the more you know about the country's context, the better prepared you will be to facilitate positive interactions with the locals. They enjoy guests who come to visit their country and appreciate when you show genuine interest and knowledge of their culture.

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

IPC is an important acronym to know as most of our days revolve entirely around it. It stands for Infection Prevention/Control. Here’s what one day could look like during the week:

We wake up at 6:30 AM and get ready for the day. We do some laundry if it needs done, and we eat the breakfast provided for us. We start walking to the health center around 8:30 AM and get there close to 9 AM. From there, we attend a health education course that is held for patients or anyone else in the community on topics such as HIV/AIDS, other communicable diseases, and health insurance.

After the course is done with, we usually start to focus on the Infection Prevention/Control assignment for the day. This could include observation/interaction with healthcare workers and patients or meetings with the clinical directors. We work until lunch which is usually around noon at the local women’s center.

After lunch, we spend some time discussing our findings from the morning, and we talk about ways to help the health center improve their IPC efforts. After that, we continue working on the different presentations and reports we have for the next few days. We usually end the day around 4 PM.

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 being able to connect with the locals. I had spent some time with Rwandans before, but I had never been to their country. This gave me a great bit of uncertainty, and this carried over until we got there. Once we arrived, our coordinators from the Global Engagement Institute really helped us feel comfortable. We were given cultural background and advice from different members of GEI which allowed us to understand the environment in which we would be working.

It takes a continual effort to step outside of your comfort zone, but when you do it, you start to learn and grow in completely new ways.

How did you manage all of the expenses for your internship?

Evidently, traveling abroad is an expensive endeavor. Brigham Young University did a great job at informing me of the many ways in which I could seek help to fund my international experience. I applied to numerous scholarships on both the university and national level. I received funding from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and BYU ISP Scholarship. The help I received from these programs alleviated much of the financial burden for my internship. I strongly believe that no student should ever avoid traveling abroad simply because of finances. There are plenty of resources out there just waiting to help you achieve your goals; you just have to get out there and find them!