University of East Anglia 2018

Medical, Cambodia Phnom Penh

Sheldon, AmberTwo of my fellow Paramedic Students and I decided to make the trip to undertake our placements overseas. Together, we embarked on what turned out to be a life-changing journey.

I was instantly drawn to Cambodia when looking through Work the World’s available destinations. The country had a fascinating, yet harrowing history, and the low-resource nature of the healthcare system made it the perfect fit for the experience I was looking for.

Travelling was exhausting. I got no sleep on the flight due to how excited (and nervous) I was. When I arrived at Phnom Penh airport, the anticipation of what was in store for us grew and grew.

A member of the Work the World team met us at the entrance to the airport. Sporting our distinctive blue t-shirts, we made our way to our accommodation. All my fears were instantly a thing of the past as excitement took over.

Sheldon, AmberThe first evening was one I will never forget. We met the Work the World team at the house and they made us all feel at home. Meeting our housemates—other students from around the world—was a great opportunity. I made friends for life and we still message each other regularly.

The food in the house was incredible. I never liked mango prior to living in Cambodia, but I ended up eating about two whole mangos a day.

I felt the culture shock on my first day of placement. I had a mixture of homesickness and anxiety about what lay ahead. The people I saw before me in the Emergency Department were from a completely different walk of life than I was. But, they knew no different. Up until that point, I had never considered how fortunate I was to live in the UK.

The doctors and nurses in the ED did an amazing job with the few resources they had. However, I couldn’t help but compare things to what they were like back home.

Sheldon, AmberIn Cambodia, patients were sent home if they couldn’t afford treatment. Whereas in the NHS, everything is free. When I returned from my placement, I felt more grateful for the NHS than I ever had.

Among the many trauma incidents I observed, one will remain with me forever. A young man was involved in a traffic accident and had fractured his left tibia and fibula. He also had an open fracture on his right femur. His family could not afford his surgery. He was simply sent home with two broken legs and a poor prognosis. It was difficult to observe as I knew what level of treatment he would have received had he been in the UK.

I had the best 3 weeks of my life, and I cannot wait to do it all over again.

The team at the Work the World house and other students (who had been there for longer) told me that things would get easier. They were right!

I had the best 3 weeks of my life, and I cannot wait to do it all over again.

Sheldon, AmberCelebrating my 21st birthday halfway across the world in a beautiful country is high on the list of once-in-a-lifetime memories. Work the World staff arranged a BBQ party and a cake. They really helped me feel right at home.

On a much more sombre note, I will never forget the genocide museum and ‘killing fields’. Learning about Cambodia’s tragic past was eye-opening. I also visited Siem Reap for a weekend, which included visits to Pub Street (a famous street full of nightlife), Angkor Wat temple, and many other temples. Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat is something that will stay with me forever.

Don’t hold back if you’re considering a placement abroad with Work the World. Book your trip and embark on the best experience of your entire life.

I don’t have a single regret, and hope that in the future I can go on many more trips with Work the World. You get a newfound insight into the realities of what happens in other parts of the world, you make friends for life, memories that last a lifetime, and come back home a different person.

Sheldon, Amber

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