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Term Abroad: Spring '17 (short-term)
Major: Medicine (M.D.)
I thought it was all beautiful. There are so many birds, trees, and the sun was out and the sky was bright blue. It was summer on a January day and I was very excited not to see a single snowflake.
I wanted to go into the program with an open mind and little expectations. The main expectation I had was to learn, and I was pleasantly surprised taking this approach because I learned more than I could ever imagine.
This study abroad program satisfied two elective months that were required for me to graduate. The program is well established and has been abroad by the university, so you don’t have to worry about filing extra paperwork to get school credit.
As a medical student, you have to complete all clerkships in your third year.The medical school sends a mass email about this elective and you have to write an essay about why you are interested in the program. Then you can go to an orientation meeting to get information. Thereafter, you sign up for a month you potentially want to go to Kenya. The most coveted months are Jan- March, and these spots fill up quickly; however, do not fear if you are on the waitlist, because I was on the waitlist and I was still able to go. Once you are told that you have an official spot you email administration about adding you to class, and then you are officially matriculated.
I was able to stay in the IU student housing in Eldoret. Each room has a bunk bed, so many of us were sharing a room with another student. The IU house was really fun because we had a lot of activities in the evenings such as "fire side" talks, game nights, trivia nights. The best thing about the IU house is that lunch and dinner meals are prepared from Sunday dinner through Friday Lunch. All breakfast meals are continental and provided, so you don't really have to worry about eating out everyday, or cooking meals yourself if you don't want to. I really liked this system because all you had to do is sign in if you wanted a meal and at the end you paid for the number of meals that you ate at the house.
I travelled around the country to see state parks, and important landmarks. I set up meetings with my classmates and we decided what landmarks/parks we wanted to do each weekend we had off. Once we had a headcount we would talk to the approved travel agencies and got price estimates that included the cost to have a driver, park fees, and overnight accommodations, etc. Larger groups meant we could divide the costs of a driver among more people, and this made things more affordable, so really try to coordinate dates so that you can go in a larger group rather in smaller groups. We were very satisfied with the safety and professionalism of the approved travel agencies and they even took care of food and water for the trip.
The local population was very welcoming and I really enjoyed having conversations about health care, everyday life, hobbies, and culture. My favorite subject was talking about the local olympic marathon runners, because they were the heros of the town. People highly value interaction, and sitting down to enjoy a cup of tea and catch up is always encouraged. I also had the opportunity to play "football" (soccer) with some the local children Friday evenings and this was by far my favorite activity to do with the local population.
This trip reaffirmed my career goals in medicine and I was introduced to new avenues that a medical career can take me. I was excited to learn more about global health, healthcare management, and quality, all of which I had limited knowledge before going on this trip. The trip made me more confident doing procedures and managing a large workload. I felt that I was going to be better prepared for the next chapter in my professional career because I was able to test my knowledge, had hands on training and refined my physical exam skills.
Definitely have your own equipment (BP cuff, pulse oximeter, hand sanitizer, and stethoscope). It is really helpful to pack light because there are so many things you buy and will like to take back. There are a lot of banks and ATMs that you can use to get money, however, keep in mind that there will be bank fees. I found out that there were some people that had opened bank accounts in certain banks that did not charge them any fees. Do your research and take advantage of these banks, because that will help you keep costs down. Most places in Kenya take cash, and credit cards are only used at large supermarkets or stores, so always have cash on you. There are great free Swahili videos online that help you learn how to introduce yourself, and say simple words like "please" and "thank you" be sure to learn some of these phrases. Take some pens and a notebook because you will have a chance to take Swahili lessons while you are there. Lastly, be sure to take conservative clothes, women wear knee length to ankle length skirts, or pants. Male clothing is less restrictive and shorts can be worn when out in town,however, you will still have to wear professional clothes in the hospital. Be sure to go to the orientations they have for this study abroad elective, because they will give you all this information in detail and they also have students that have completed the program come answer questions and give you tips. These tips are really helpful, so I highly recommend attending the orientation. They also have a running list of things that are needed at the rural clinics, orphanages, etc. that you can look at so that you can take books/crafts/clothing for the kiddos.