Volunteer Review: Alternative Spring Break, Medicine in Argentina – Jillian Redmond
Booking and applying for my Alternative Spring Break in Argentina was one of the boldest things I have ever done. Growing up in a small town in Maine, I never really had many chances to put myself out there and experience different things. When I first learned about Projects Abroad, I, admittedly, thought to myself (an aspiring medical school student) “man, this would look really good on a resume.” I brought the description of the program to my Health Professions Advisor to pick her brain on the program.
Let’s be honest, the real reason is I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be abducted if I were to partake. She assured me that the program was indeed legitimate so the next obstacle was to run it past my parents. When I originally asked them, the first thing that came from their mouths was “are you sure this is a real thing and we will get you back?” I assured them of what I had learned, even though I was still hesitant, and they immediately realized what an amazing opportunity it would be for me and insisted I apply, so I did with uncertainty. It was a decision I will never regret.
Arriving in in Cordoba
Upon arrival to Santiago, Peru (where my connecting flight left from) I met the other two volunteers I would be staying with for the week. I originally was overwhelmed with worry to meet them but when it came down to it, we were all in the same boat and hit it off instantly. After landing in Cordoba and making our way through customs, we were met with a welcoming and reassuring smile by Augustin, a coordinator with the program. He delivered us to our host family home where, again, we were warmly welcomed. This is the moment when all of my fears disappeared.
The day of arrival was an introduction day to the program. We received all the contact numbers we needed and emergency information. Augustin gave us the lay down on how the project was going to go and made sure we felt comfortable before he left. The next day we were picked up by Santiago, another coordinator, who brought us to the offices where we received more information about Argentina and Projects Abroad. We then took a tour of the city and that’s the moment I knew a week wasn’t going to be long enough.
Cordoba is an amazing city filled with history and beautiful sights. It is home to the oldest University in Argentina making it a great location for this project. The food and people are some of the best I could imagine. Not only the coordinators, who were absolutely amazing, but everyone seemed to be eager to help out three non-Spanish speaking stupid tourists whenever need be. Not once did I feel threatened or in danger, even when the three Stupid Americans got lost in a not so great part of town the first day.
The next four days were a complete whirlwind. Bright and early, we made our way to the hospital to meet the doctor we were to be shadowing. That day there were multiple surgery’s we were able to scrub in on and watch. To me, a very visual learner, was the best experience I could’ve gained. After the surgery’s, I was able to work with some medical students who were some of the nicest people to me. They were so willing to teach me and patient with my complete and total lack of Spanish. They brought me to the ER where I got to watch stiches, cast applications and removals, and other simple procedures.
This was so exciting to me. I saw so many different things all in the span of two hours. When there were no patients to be seen, the students welcomed me to their dorm where we would drink delicious Mate and teach each other about our respective cultures. The language barrier was difficult at first but eventually we were all just laughing at it and had it all figured out.
On Wednesday, we got to go to this amazing anatomy museum which was unlike anything I have ever seen in the US. This museum had the most amazing, all genuine, human models. It was truly remarkable and possibly my favorite part of the trip. At the museum we also met some medical students who introduced us to a cadaver which we were able to dissect and learn from. This was my first experience with a human cadaver and it was awesome. The students taught us various techniques to do stitches and allowed us to practice on the cadaver. These skills came in handy later in the week with the medical students who were practicing in their dorm and let us join in!
There was a night that was a volunteer social outing in which we, of course, played a game of soccer then went to dinner after. This was great way to meet the long term volunteers in the program who were all from different parts of the world. They were all curious about us “Spring Breakers” that the coordinators would talk about. Everyone was so kind and inviting and it was fun to see how we were all the same even though from different corners of the world.
I think that the best part of this trip was meeting Chris and Krista (the two volunteers who were with me.) Even after a month of departure, I still talk to them almost every day. We have a certain bond after that one simple week in Argentina that I am more than thankful for.
Every day was an adventure and an amazing learning experience. I would suggest to anyone, if they can make it happen, to participate in a Project Abroad. It was worth every single penny. I am hoping to be able to participate in another Project this coming winter. Being able to travel and gain the experience I did is not something I would trade for the world. I truly believed in the phrase “pay for experiences not materials” before this trip and after it, it honestly took on a whole new meaning.
The week started with tears because I was scared to go and the week ended with tears because not one part of me wanted to leave. The trip for me was not long enough. I never wanted it to end. I was pushed and forced out of my comfort zone and I truly believe that is the only way you can learn and grow as a person. It’s crazy to think that one week had the effect it did on me and for that, Projects Abroad, I am truly thankful.
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.