Alumni Spotlight: Victoria Le


Victoria Le went to Cape Town, South Africa, June 17 - August 2, 2014 for a Community Health and Development trip. Her home school is North Carolina State University.

Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad.

Victoria: One thing that anyone who visits South Africa has to try is Braai. It's their version of barbecuing - and its amazing! I recommend Mzoli's - a place outside the township of Gugulethu (about ~20 minutes from the University of Cape Town) primarily for the atmosphere.

I went after the program took us to a church service. Then we walked until we heard the music. I loved Mzoli’s; 50% of it was because of the atmosphere. The program had ordered enough for our table of 30.

The sausages and other meats would come out on a platter, along with fat cakes (bread dough that is deep fried). Everyone would talk, drink their beverages and take as much as they could eat. When they were done, they would join the rest of the people in Mzoli’s and dance.

How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, academically, etc)

Victoria: This experience has impacted my future by solidifying and emphasizing what exactly I wanted to do in healthcare. All of my college career I had been volunteering and trying out different jobs related in healthcare. This ranged from working with children with special needs to shadowing at the hospital.

But these were all about treatment and care, what I wanted to focus on more was prevention. This deals with education and learning the social reasons behind why certain illnesses are more evident in certain areas. The experience in the rural community clarified that I wanted to work with community health and development in rural communities.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

Victoria: I got to shadow a doctor in a rural community 30 minutes from Johannesburg. The experience here would have been nothing like any in the States. I saw how horrible it was that this community only saw this doctor once a month. During the time that the doctor was there, she only was supposed to see 15 of the priority patients but ended up staying after her hours to see 5 more.

On top of that, she was pregnant and having contractions! The nurses who saw the patients when the doctor wasn’t there were untrained but hired by the government to ease the tensions of the apartheid issues. These nurses couldn’t tell a lady that an infection could have been cleaned with some salt water – leading to blindness in her eye. Seeing these things, I saw my place. I wanted to help.

What made this experience unique and special?

Victoria: This trip was unique. Originally I chose South Africa because it was a location that not a lot of people chose. I saw the beautiful mountains and the Cape. I knew that I would get to indulge in some cultural differences, too.

It became an experience that I rave on and on about to my friends, though knowing that no matter how much I talk about it, no one will understand since they didn’t first hand experience it.

I appreciated the things that I had but also realized that I enjoyed a simpler way of life. Not having Wi-Fi all the time allowed me to focus on my friends and my surroundings. I experienced new foods and compared and contrasted the different healthcare systems I saw.

More dramatically, I experienced the stark differences between a luxurious mall where Louis Vuitton was sold, but then drove a short 5 miles away and saw poverty stricken townships where the towns people haven’t ever seen a single blonde haired person.