Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Gap Medics in Thailand?
Michael: I'd just completed my first year of my Paramedic Science degree course at the University of Worcester. Over the summer, I wanted to do some medical work experience that would enhance both my knowledge and skills.
I decided to volunteer abroad with Gap Medics as it was an experience that sounded exciting, varied and in addition, any learned experiences could also be transferred into my second year of my degree.
I was also aware that I'd struggle to get some of the placement opportunities available to you through Gap Medics, in England, so I thought it would be a great opportunity and excuse to travel abroad!
What was the most interesting cultural difference you encountered?
Michael: I remember initially being shocked by the chaotic road traffic, with hundreds of ‘tuk-tuks’ and lose dogs roaming road the streets and people shouting ‘cab?’
Another culture difference that became evident when walking around the night market was individuals approaching you with a basket box of goodies tied around their waist and on top of their heads. At first sight they will approach you and start showing you their items for sale, some it is incredibly difficult to say no to!
However, I think the most surprising culture difference that I witnessed was the lady boys, their shows, and how this gender transformation is so pronounced and loved within Chiang Mai!
What was the best moment of the entire trip?
Michael: It’s difficult as there were too many best moments to choose from.
I think if I had to choose it would have been when I was scrubbed up into theatres and got to witness a C-section. All of a sudden, the surgeon handed me the barely born baby to hold, I was overwhelmed to say the least!
I had the pleasure to meet lots of like-minded people, who I became such close friends to in such a short period of time. I don’t think you realise how much you have done until you look back through your photos and see images of you around the resort, between placement, bungee jumping, riding elephants, holding monkeys, lying with tigers and water rafting.
There was never a dull moment throughout my trip!
Tell me about one person you met.
Michael: I had the pleasure of spending five weeks with ‘Queen Esther,’ who is the head cook at the resort. She is a very inspirational woman, who has been through a lot and is full of personality.
With all of the gap medic’s students, she takes you under her wing to be your surrogate mother and is incredibly caring and supportive. Esther is more than happy to help you arrange days out, teach you some Thai cookery and spend the evenings with you.
What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?
Michael: A combination of the setting, which offers something for everyone, the fellow students on the programme, the supportive staff and the unique placement opportunities have really made this volunteering experience stand out for me. I would highly recommend embarking on this journey with Gap Medics!