by Work the World

As much as we try and prepare you for your time overseas, there are some things that you simply won’t know until you get there.  As well as the immediate contrast in clinical practice, each destination we offer provides a fascinating cultural experience so this week we asked the students what they have learnt.  We asked them “What is your favourite in-country fact?!”

In Arusha, Lucy learnt that “Fluoride in the water here causes the yellow stains on the teeth.  Before coming to Africa I thought this was caused by tobacco"

Nicola said that “Going on safari was the best experience!  So far my favourite African fact is ‘The Serengeti is the same size as Holland’ as quoted from a maasai warrior”

On the clinical side, Helen told us that “Patients have to pay an admission fee at Mount Meru, but then they get all treatment they need and HIV medication is free” with Rachael adding that “The consultants get paid a 1/3 of what we get paid as an intern, which is pretty terrible and offers no surprises as to why they leave”

Helen and Jemima found it funny that “Poa kichizi kama ndizi ndani ya friji – is a normal response to the greeting ‘mambo’ – this means cool like banana in a fridge!”

On the subject of language, Nicola told us that “Tanzanians are very respectful of their elders and their language reflects this. They use “shikamoo” to greet their elders as opposed to “mambo”

In Dar es Salaam many people call me a “bonge” (big) which is meant as a compliment!  But my favourite word of the week is “umependeza” which means beautiful.  I also like it that white people are called “mzungu” said Zoe

Esme did the Village Experience and discovered that “tribes have two rooms for wives in their huts – one for the junior wife, one for the senior wife!”

Clare noticed that “in stone town you will see a lot of carved and gold studded doors.  If you visit the House of Wonders you will learn that this was a way of demonstrating wealth despite the rest of the house being less desirable. The doors started off being flat topped but with the arrival of the Indians came arched tops and studs to ward off elephants.”

According to Joe, our Programme Manager, “we have got quite a jovial lot in Ghana at the moment and this question sparked off laughter around the dinner table!  It was mostly from Hilary who hadn’t done any research into Ghana and therefore could not tell us anything but ended up seconding every confirmed fact by the other five students.  With a smile they all admitted that Ghana is definitely the gateway to Africa. "The people are so friendly, even at the hospital".  Ghanaians are very friendly and are always willing to help!

Anthony took the floor saying "...I heard that it is safe and peaceful here..." and that is exactly how they see it now.  Catherine mentioned that the hot temperature was a definite fact.  Malaria is the most common disease and the health facilities are under resourced.  Everyone had heard this before coming including Hilary!”

Sunil, the Programme Manager for Nepal had the students talking traffic!  “Anna had heard a lot about the driving and traffic rules, how chaotic it is in Nepal. She always thought that Nepal didn't have a proper traffic rule, but after coming here, she understands what all her friends were trying to say. Get on a bus or in a cab and see how it goes; it’s crazy with bikes everywhere, everyone overtaking everyone, cows crossing the street...”

We are quick to talk about the cultural differences but there are some surprising similarities too. This week we have asked the students “Have you noticed any similarities either on placement or locally?”

We’ll see you back here next week for the answers!

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