Lauren Dod - Midwifery Electives in Peru
First Impressions of Peru
Despite the lack of sleep from traveling and being freezing cold (I learnt very quickly that I should have taken a coat!), when I stepped out of the airport in Peru I was so excited that I had finally arrived. I was met by a very friendly member of the Projects Abroad team who made me feel at home straight from the start. On the way to my host family various landmarks and sites were pointed out to me and I was informed with everything I needed to know during my stay. I felt really eager to look around and I was very surprised by my first experience of Peru.
Cuzco is such a beautiful place and even though we passed through the Plaza de Armas quickly I could already see all the interesting places it had to offer. However, the more I took in the more I felt the culture shock. The people live very differently in Peru to how we do back home and it became clear fairly quickly the poor conditions in which people live. It has really made me appreciate everything I have at home.
Once the altitude sickness had started to wear off I soon realized what an amazing country Peru is and how welcoming the people are. I loved walking down the streets and witnessing some of the more traditional attire that some of the Peruvian people chose to wear and I loved how brightly colored everything was. In addition to this I loved the fact there were people to stop you from jay walking. Little things like that really made this trip an experience.
My Medical Placement
On my first day of placement at Centro de Salud en Sanjeronemo I felt overwhelmed and nervous. The health center was extremely busy, understaffed and unequipped; very different to the conditions I’m used to working in back home. However once I got over my initial fear of speaking Spanish I instantly felt part of the team. All of the staff were very welcoming and keen to teach me about midwifery practice in Peru.
As the week went on my confidence grew and as the midwives and obstetricians learnt more about me and my level of experience I was able to become more involved in the practical side of clinics. In addition to this by the end of my first week I was going on ward rounds with the obstetricians and I had also been lucky enough to go to theatre with the team.
I had chosen to do midwifery in Peru as part of my elective placement at university which meant that I had to fill in certain paperwork for my studies. All of the staff at Centro de Salud en Sanjeronemo were very helpful in helping me to fill it all in and making the experience one that I will remember for life. I have come back to university with amazing stories to tell and an amazing life experience that I can put on my CV.
My Peruvian Host Family
Staying with a host family really made the experience for a number of reasons. The first being that I learnt far more about Peruvian culture than I would have done staying in a hotel or hostel. In addition to this living with locals was a major advantage when it came to knowing the best places to go for souvenirs amongst other things. Living with a host family was an amazing opportunity to practice my Spanish as they were keen to learn about me, my family and England. They made me feel as if I had known them a lifetime and it made me forget how far from home I really was.
As well as living with a host family I also lived with two other volunteers which was a really nice experience. It was nice to socialize with other people in the same position as myself and due to the fact most of the volunteers have Peruvian phone numbers it was possible to meet up and explore Cuzco together. Therefore I rarely felt lonely during my stay.
Traveling around Peru
I was only in Peru for two weeks because that is the only time I was allowed away from my university, so this meant that I was not able to do much traveling. However I did manage to go to Machu Picchu on my weekend off, which was definitely one of the best weekends of my life so far! I traveled with another volunteer through an organized tour which fit in really well with our plans. Over the course of the weekend we traveled by van, train and foot which meant we were able to see a variety of Peruvian landscapes which were absolutely breath-taking! Machu Picchu itself was one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen and watching the sunrise over the ruins and seeing it come to life was incredible.
Even though I had placement five days a week I was able to explore Cuzco in the afternoons with some other volunteers. We went to various markets, museums and lots of other attractions and whilst we were there we talked to locals in order to learn as much about Peruvian culture as we could (something I would definitely recommend doing).
The only thing I would say is that Peru can be very frustrating at times simply because things are extremely different to the Westernized world that I have grown up in, so to anyone thinking of going you must keep that in mind. Overall my trip to Peru was an amazing experience which I will treasure for life.