Volunteer Review: Cecily B., Medicine in Mexico
I looked at medical internships for about 7months before I decided to go with Projects Abroad. From the time I was sixteen years old, I wanted to be a doctor and practice in Latin American countries. Since I was about to finish my first half of college, I was nervous. Medical internships are very hard to get in the United States. Furthermore, I wanted to learn about healthcare in Latin America. I had never traveled on my own before, so I put a lot of thought into my decision.
From the start, Projects Abroad made sure I was comfortable. They let me talk to an alumni from my state that went on a similar project before I committed. Afterwards, they emailed me at least once a week with information and to make sure I didn’t have any questions. The emails and website were so clear; I didn’t have any questions to ask! I chose to go abroad for three weeks to Guadalajara, Mexico.
Arriving in Mexico
Arriving in Guadalajara, a friendly driver holding a Projects Abroad sign greeted me and drove me to my accommodation. My Spanish was not very good the first week, so he spoke in English in order to answer my questions. My accommodation was in the middle of a nice neighborhood with families taking afternoon walks.
When I walked in, I was greeted by my host mom, Margo. A positive, older Mexican woman, she welcomed me with warmth and accepted me into her home. Her English was limited, but we were able to communicate easily. As my Spanish improved, our conversations grew more in depth. Her husband, Chewy, worked as an architect. He spoke clearer English, and he had a great sense of humor. My room was tidy from the cleaning lady, and it soon became my home away from home. Margo was an excellent cook. Lunches were a social affair, and her sons would come home to consume a home-cooked meal.
Volunteering with Projects Abroad
On my induction day, a Projects Abroad worker, Rosa, showed me my placement. I was placed at Hospital General de Zapopan. She made sure I met the director of interns, and that I understood how to work the buses. Afterwards, she showed me the sights and treated me to lunch. I could text her day or night with questions. Whenever I would take a wrong turn or forget a bus number, Rosa would promptly respond with directions and guidance. In addition, she would meet with me once a week to make sure I was comfortable with my placement and accommodation. She even helped me plan my weekend excursions. It was the perfect mixture of freedom and support. I never felt unsafe or alone, but I also did not feel restricted.
My placement was everything I dreamed it would be. The doctors and medical students were so welcoming and understanding of my limited Spanish. Making friends was easy, and I was sad when I had to leave. The first week, I sat in on consultations. At the time, I thought I wanted to be a family practice doctor. I was able to ask questions about the patient’s diagnoses. Quickly, I realized family practice was not as interesting to me as I previously assumed. As soon as I mentioned it to the hospital director, he switched me to Emergency Pediatrics.
I found a new love of Emergency Medicine. The head doctors and medical students stopped to explain each patient. They even spoke slowly and simply enough in Spanish that I understood. I got to see children with concussions and bronchitis. When there was an interesting case of an infant with Down’s syndrome, the doctor and I took a trip across the hospital so I could see it. He showed me how the lungs and heart sounded and explained the complications of down-syndrome in infants.
At first, my job was to simply distract the children and weigh infants. Then, a medical student taught me how to dress out for surgery, and I got to witness a C-section. She demonstrated all the health assessments the baby needed. As the days went by, I went in with another medical student and assisted him. I learned how to cut the umbilical cord and how to properly dry the baby. It was miraculous. I got to assist in bringing a new life into the world. The next baby, I got to do almost everything by myself. In the United States, this would never happen. I was grateful I experienced and participated in such an intimate event.
The other volunteers made Guadalajara a trip to remember. My house mate from Australia showed me the coolest places to hang out. We went dancing, ate way too much food, and met the coolest people. Guadalajara was so full of life. It was much slower paced than America. The people were so friendly and tried to help me even when they did not fully understand me.
I never thought Mexico would have impacted me so much. It affirmed my profession and made me life-long friends. I learned to be independent and to be comfortable with traveling the world. More importantly, I found myself. I found the person I wanted to be.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.