Alumni Spotlight: Natasha Roblesky

I picked this program last minute because my close friend was going, and I was looking for a break after a demanding academic year. When I looked at the website for the program, I was thrilled with how Help Learn and Discover (HLD) has a medical and volunteer portion, as well lots of physical activities such as surfing, hiking, waterfall repelling and more. As soon as I heard about the program I immediately contacted the coordinators and was thrilled to hear that they had a few spots left, allowing me to quickly make the plan to go just before the deadline to apply. HLD was the first program I have come across that combines a diverse group of experiences into one trip, with additional weeks in Galapagos, Argentina and Machu Picchu as options as well. I chose to do the Pre-Medical tour with an extra week in the Galapagos.

What made this experience unique and special?


Natasha: The owners of HLD, Jose and Juan, truly made the experience I had in Ecuador unique and special. Jose and Juan are brothers that founded HLD 10 years ago. Juan is a doctor in Internal Medicine in Ecuador, allowing us to be able to have the opportunity to partake in the medical activities that we did.

During the medical rotations he would give us insightful lectures, and was always checking in to make sure that the rotations were running smoothly and that everyone was having a good time. If ever someone had a concern on the trip, either Jose or Juan would address it immediately. Jose and Juan truly made me feel like I had a second family in Ecuador, making my stay there an unforgettable one. They are both passionate about what they do and it truly reflects through the success of HLD.

The other members of HLD, including Ferra our photographer and Ruben our bus driver, were such kind, gracious people. I found that everyone involved in HLD, including Jose, Juan, Ruben, Ferra and all the medical tutors, made my time in Ecuador a very personable experience as they take time to get to know each and everyone individually, and truly care that you are having fun and feel safe at all times.

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

With local kid

Natasha: During the weeks of Medical rotations, in the evenings we had the opportunity to partake in different workshops each evening such as internal medicine, learning how to perform stitches and draw blood. These hands on opportunities that we were able to do we would not be able to do in our Undergrad back home in Canada.

In addition, during the medical rotations during the day, some of these rotations included E.R. and surgery. During these rotations we were able to put on scrubs and go into the operating rooms while surgeries were being performed and shadow the doctors, including watching a brain surgery.

The surgeons would interact with us and describe what they were doing while performing the surgeries, and answer any questions we had. We were divided into groups of 2-3 people, with each group doing a different medical rotation each day. This way we were provided with a very personable experience in the hospital settings.

As students, we got an authentic feel for a career in medicine, including the demanding lifestyle with early mornings after spending late nights at the E.R., and got to see an overview of pediatrics, radiology and other disciplines in medicine.

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

Group picture with project members

Natasha: I would tell them not to be concerned about the amount of detail provided in the trip itinerary. The itinerary emailed to travelers before they leave contains minimal information with which days you will be where, but not the specific activities you will be doing or the places you will be staying. Jose said they purposely keep the itineraries we see prior to the trip to a minimum to increase the element of surprise and also allow us as travelers just to relax and not worry about planning.

Coming from a busy year of academics and being on a specific schedule, it was a relief to just get on the plane and not know exactly what I was going to be doing every single hour of the day for the next 4 weeks. Personally, I found not knowing what activity we were going to do the next day made each event we did so much more exciting. Jose always had everything taken care of and had everything planned perfectly so that each activity we took part in went smoothly.

It was a great break from a semester of responsibility, to be able to just relax and know that things were taken care of from meals to accommodations and transportation. I would tell anyone thinking of going on this trip to pack everything on the checklist (pack extra sunscreen and aloe, and also snacks!), and then hop on the plane, relax, and get ready to have the best month of their lives!