Placement Abroad: Working in CMC Hospital and Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, Nepal
Upon learning that we had to complete a compulsory professional placement within our 3rd year, my friend David and I immediately set our minds abroad. We figured experiencing a new culture would be better than being stuck in an office or lab for a month.
We settled on travelling to Nepal, spending the first 2 weeks in the large CMC hospital in Chitwan before finishing the final 2 weeks at Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital.
The 24-hour journey to Nepal was to be the start of long experience. Although I was aware it was still a developing country, I didn’t anticipate Nepal being that different from the western world, both medically and socially; I should have been more conscious due to fact that it’s not safe to use tap / non-bottled water, not even when brushing teeth. The difference in society and culture was the reason for our trip, so despite the plain repetitive food, wooden mattress beds and the sound of someone deep throat phlegm spitting every 5 seconds, I would have enjoyed Nepal. What I could not tolerate was the constant blatant staring followed by the giggles and sneering from EVERYONE, simply because I was black. Being so distant from the modern world, I was the first black person most of them had ever seen, and telling myself this did help at first, but dealing with it for 4 weeks became unbearingly infuriating – I was searching flights back home after 5 days..
To make matters worse, the doctors we were shadowing intentionally spoke Nepalese so we couldn’t understand them, despite being trained in English so they could discuss cases without the patients understanding. They wouldn’t let us assist them and on some occasions snatched patient documents right from our hands (the Bhaktapur hospital doctors were much more accepting I must admit). Overall, it did make me independent, it forced me to find things out and ask questions as opposed to just standing there.
There were some good moments spent there though. We visited a local home for the disabled and got to play games with them. Going to the tourist town of Pokhara was definitely the highlight, where we went paragliding and even found a club.
Going on a placement abroad is not a decision to make lightly, though I do still recommend it as it’s a valuable learning experience. I would advise doing so with a reputable company and going where English (or a fluent language) is spoken. Finally, be prepared for it not to be what you expected but do make the most of it.
'A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.' - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr
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