What I wish you Knew Before Traveling to Africa for a Healthcare Internship
I credit the school advisors, clinical directors and global health coordinators who through experience and research have identified many do’s and don’ts for students traveling abroad. While the lists of what is recommended for ideal travel abroad is vast and its content far reaching there are crucial elements of planning, experience, and post-experience that you can never exhaust; not even by this article. Being on ground (In Africa) where you will come for your experience, and having been with hundreds of students I wish you knew the following prior to your travel:
- That being fully prepared is directly proportional to the number of questions you ask
Traveling abroad requires planning but then what is planning and what exactly does the planning entail. To some, it’s through email correspondences, to others through booklets and flier information and to others calls and training. I wish you knew that it’s all about the questions so the many questions you ask through the various channels the more likely you are to be fully prepared.
- That the 2 systems differ, your system at home and the system here in Africa
The usual question is, will I be able to shadow or work with a physician similar to what I would like to be and the answer to this is always a yes. However, the question underneath forming the basis of the point is that the two system differ. In one procedures may always start with the collection of vitals and laboratory tests while in the other procedures may always start with a long queue and physical examinations before tests are ordered for. In one system all cadres of professionals are available in numbers to support the delivery of care in the other there are limited professionals. As a general point the two systems are different in procedures and resources available and adapting to the system in Africa is key to your learning.
- That prior Knowledge of where you will stay helps you in settling down
A new country, a new world and of course a new place of staying, how else would one settle fast and comfortably than to have some background as to where they would stay. Before your travel ask not only of your physical address but a bit more to the amenities in the house and what the living condition around is like. This helps you with a faint picture of what to expect in your living conditions and this will come in handy in having you settle in the program.
- That a little research doesn’t hurt
Key to the experience also is to research. Before you travel it is good to spare some time to engage yourself in research. Find out on the common diets, the language of the people and learn a few terms, find out on the hospital the common diseases and what it deals with this way you will be prepared to learn more.
- That to be mentored and guided requires one to be outgoing, to be inquisitive and open minded
Mentorship and supervision and having a guarantee of that is a key pillar to any program abroad. While that is surely ideal and a requirement for the programs its worth noting that the mentors are primarily obligated to patients and therefore your learning and involvement and the quality of engagement is also pegged on your ability to be open-minded, ask questions and also seek to be involved.
- That just like in school or at work bad days also exist
Often in school, the professor will bump on you with a question or a comment that is day spoiling, the assignment will pass you and that good grade will therefore not be forthcoming. This is just my look into what may bring about a bad day for you in school am sure there are more. But just like school, bad days are present in the placement facility too. You will have extremely slow days, freak out in the middle of a procedure or even meet a doctor who is not very engaging this could bring the day to its rock bottom but remember like in school, at home and anywhere the bad day will depart.
- That it will soon end
2 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks or even more the truth is they end too soon. I have uncountable instances when students told me they could not believe that the time ended too soon. The trick to enjoying every bit and learning from every one of the experiences is knowing that it will soon end. BE SURE TO RETAIN THE ENTHUSIASM AS YOU SEEK THE LEARNING BECAUSE SOON IT WILL END
Looking to travel abroad has more to this, as you plan to travel be sure to engage others who have been there, learn from all sources you can and don’t form an opinion yet, wait for your turn to write your experience book.