Volunteer Review: Samantha M., Medicine & Spanish in Argentina
Growing up in a small town in the middle of nowhere, it’s hard to get the experience needed to decide your future. I, like many, was lost with all the possibilities. I guess I’ve always been interested in the field of medicine but there’s a difference between what you see on TV and real life. I wanted to make sure that medicine was what I really wanted to do before I get in over my head with med school, that’s why I chose the Medicine & Spanish program in Argentina.
Arriving in Cordoba
After eight months of preparation, I began my journey to Córdoba. With around 24 hours of flying to get there, I arrived at the airport at 3am, just 4 hours before our coordinators came to pick us up. I lived with my host mom, a host brother and two other volunteers. My host mother was so sweet, she stayed up all night waiting for my arrival and when I did, she refused to let me go to bed without a little food. I wasn’t expecting much from the house because it was just supposed to be someplace comfy to sleep, within a few days it became my home.
It was a lot different to my real home which took some adjusting. I remember on my first night I asked my roommate why there were so many blankets on the bed, “you’ll need it, trust me” was her response… she was right. Between keys, heaters and stoves, we received many lessons on how everyday life in Argentina works from our host mom. I had a blast with my family; going out to dinner and making Canadian pancakes with maple syrup were just a few of our bonding moments. It really felt like family!
Being 16, I didn’t have much medical knowledge so adjusting to the hospitals were hard at first but our coordinators and doctors helped describe things in English and in Spanish to help me understand. I learnt so much about the human body within my 4 weeks there. I was expecting to just follow doctors, but I actually got to witness 4 surgeries.
I spend most of the time watching casts being removed and stitches being done but it was never a bore, we always ended up have an amazing day. At one of the clinics downtown I got to rock a 4 day old baby to sleep and feed another. We spent a few days at workshops as well, learning so many things about medical problems in Argentina. They taught us how to do stiches correctly and how to give first aid. It was more hands on than I was expecting.
There were a few days we didn’t spend at the hospital. One day we had a dirty day, where two families went and helped paint a neighborhood clinic. My favorite day was when we spent the morning at an anatomy museum and got to see a dead body and then went to remove lice from kids’ hair. The kids ended up being our age and none of them had lice, it sounds awful but our coordinator helped make the best out of the situation by goofing off with us between shampooing hair.
Every afternoon from 3-5 we had Spanish class. We spent some time learning medical terms and how to communicate with our host families to avoid the language barrier. Other days we had picnics outside and played games with the other Spanish classes. Our teachers went out of the way to help us learn. The classes really helped me in communicating with doctors and my host mom.
Projects Abroad kept us very busy during our four weeks. Between hospitals, Spanish, socials and weekend trips we never got time to really relax. The socials were so amusing. I spent a whole night tripping over my feet trying to learn how to tango, never have I laughed so hard in my life. Our weekends were filled with happiness as well. Horseback riding was my favorite; the views from the mountain were amazing!
The hardest part of the whole trip was leaving. Saying goodbye to my friends and family left me in tears. It was the best experience in my life and I can’t wait to see what’s going to come next!
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.