Riley Stanford-Hill - Medicine & Spanish in Argentina
Toward the end of my sophomore year in high school, I began searching for summer programs. As the daughter of two doctors, I had naturally developed quite an interest in medicine and was planning to pursue it in the future. I knew that the Medicine and Spanish High School Special in Argentina would be a great fit for me, as it would allow me to travel to a place I had never been before, improve my Spanish, and gain first-hand experience with a medical system that is different from the United States.
As soon as I signed up for the program, I was instantly put in contact with a Projects Abroad Volunteer Advisor who was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. She walked me through the whole process and made me more and more excited for my upcoming trip.
Arriving in Argentina
After many hours on a plane, I arrived in Argentina and was greeted by one of the Volunteer Coordinators, who took me straight to my host family. I was very nervous about my Spanish and I was feeling shy, but the coordinator helped me fit right in and feel comfortable instantly.
My host family
I was placed in a house with an Argentine woman and two other girls from my program. My host mother greeted me very warmly and was so excited to share aspects of the Argentinian culture with me. She offered mate, a very common drink in Argentina, to me and the other girls.
Although my host mother did not speak English, after a few days, I became more comfortable with my Spanish and was able to communicate effectively with her. The house I stayed in was very clean and nice. It had two bedrooms available for volunteers, a bathroom with a shower, a living room, and a kitchen.
My Medicine placement
Every weekday morning between 8am and 12pm was spent volunteering in various hospitals in and around Cordoba. My two roommates and I were picked up by a Volunteer Coordinator and were taken to a hospital, where we were assigned to wards for the day. The wards varied depending on the hospital, but some examples are radiology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, the emergency room, ICU, and maternity. We shadowed doctors from our assigned wards and helped them with their daily routines. Most of the doctors I shadowed were very excited to teach me, and show me equipment and interesting medical cases.
One of the most exciting days was when I got to watch a woman give birth. I got to stand behind the doctor and watch the whole thing from up close. It was such a moving experience and I am so grateful to have been able to be present for it. Another exciting day was when I shadowed a pediatrician at the Hospital de Niños. The doctor was so nice and he even let me cut off a cast from a kid’s leg.
I really liked that we had the opportunity to visit six or seven hospitals multiple times throughout the month. It was a very eye opening experience to see first-hand the difference between private hospitals and public hospitals. It was also interesting that the location of the hospital affected the resources available.
We also did various outreach programs. On one day, we visited local elementary schools and talked to the kids about proper dental hygiene and nutrition. We handed out toothbrushes to the kids at the end. We also had a workshop at the Projects Abroad office, where we learned from a pediatric surgeon how to do stiches on a banana. On another day, we went to a small clinic in a rural area and ran a diabetes campaign. We took blood pressure, weight, height, and blood glucose levels of people in the community and we assessed their risk for developing diabetes. It was very helpful for these people and was a great experience for me.
The Spanish classes ran every weekday from 2pm to 4pm at the Projects Abroad office. The teachers were real Spanish teachers who taught Spanish to kids in local schools. The classes were very interactive and focused on aspects of Argentinian culture, as well as the language itself. They also focused on vocabulary that was important at my Medicine Project, which helped me communicate better in the hospitals.
My free time
The weekend activities were really fun! One of my favorite activities was the amazing race of Cordoba that we did. It was fun to travel around the city and see some of the historical landmarks and buildings. Another one of my favorite activities was our trip to a farm, where we made our own empanadas and had a traditional Argentinian asado lunch.
We had evening activities about three times a week and they varied from dance classes to bowling to dinner out with our host families. They were a great way to get to know the other people in our group while experiencing the culture of Argentina and Cordoba.
My final thoughts
I was very sad to leave Argentina! I made lifelong friends and will always remember and treasure my experience there for the rest of my life.