Monash University Malaysia 2014
I cannot imagine myself doing my elective with any other organisation but Work the World (WTW) for three main reasons:
- The star-rating reviews I had received and read about from other students, including video blogs from the WTW website.
- An extremely user-friendly homepage that provided great detail about placements in different continents and a hassle-free way of applying for the trip.
- The valuable opportunity to take part in a rural village healthcare experience unlike any other.
Work the World was impressively thorough with providing assistance prior to my trip. From courtesy calls to emails to ensuring that all the necessary placement arrangements had been sufficient, the UK staff are a reliable source of support for any queries. What’s more, the 'MyTrip' page on the website provided a comprehensive information pack. It gave me the ability to view photographs of the hospital, rural village and health post, the Kathmandu house as well as my housemates. All of this was very comforting and dampened the anxiety that slowly heightened as the days to the trip drew closer.
Arrival and orientation
I had not expected to receive such a smooth welcome upon arrival and an enriching orientation on my very first day. Organising money exchange, getting local mobile SIM cards and familiarising ourselves with key local stores and shopping areas proved to be a lot easier with the help of our knowledgeable Program Manager, Sean. In addition, we even managed to indulge in the famous Nepali ‘momos’ over lunch and enjoyed a cup of Nepali tea within Kathmandu’s beautiful and historical Garden of Dreams, all in simply a few hours!
WTW house and staff
The house proved to be a safe and comfortable compound where the 13 of us not only shared space, but fostered special bonds that grew stronger each day. Our weekly barbeques were most looked forward to as the team and staff would share casual conversations over tasty meals, sometimes with a stunning view of the Kathmandu sunset. We became like a family with our devoted Program Manager Sean, talented caterer Krishna, our delightful housekeeper Lakshmi, and dedicated security guards Raju and Dinesh. Sean was always there to keep a watchful and caring eye out for us, ensuring our safety, comfort and made us feel at home. We could not have asked for a more fitting Program Manager.
The hospital, located just 5 minutes away via taxi, was not only conveniently located but also offered a great variety of clinical presentations in paediatrics. If not for this placement, I would not have witnessed babies presenting with HIV or tuberculosis. Furthermore, I would not have seen small infants considering their gestational age or particularly malnourished children had it not been for this expereince. In addition, I also was privileged to see a staggering number of infectious diseases in children, more than I ever did when in Australia. In a setting where Nepali is the main language, establishing good relationships with doctors and students is also critical.
My village experience in a rural location, a district located 3.5 hours away by bus, was easily the jewel of my three weeks. I regretted not being able to give back so much more to the community and host family whom I had grown to love and care for so deeply over the week. My role in the health post was overwhelming, as I was perceived to be the ‘doctor’ in the district whom they never had a chance to have. Therefore, it was certainly an uplifting week of clinical experiences with a boost in both my physical and emotional wellbeing through participating in challenging hikes and meeting other villagers from different areas. It was a new skill for me to take histories and clinically examine an estimate of about 80 patients through an interpreter, and provide health information or advice to the villagers whose culture and language differ greatly from my own.
As such, I owe my exceptional experience to the outstanding guide, Achyut, who was there for me round the clock. He certainly deserves all the credit for ensuring that my experience was nothing short of enriching from the very moment he picked me up from Kathmandu house. I was able to immerse myself in the cultural village experience by taking part in his family’s activities such as paddy planting, witnessing a local wedding and visiting schools amongst other things. Separately, I would like to dedicate each of my wonderful memories from Nuwakot to Achyut who is now like a brother to me. He has taught me great lessons from the village and its people about life and happiness, both of which I hope to bring home and share with the rest of the world. For those eager to learn more than a textbook or hospital setting can ever offer in one’s lifetime, the village healthcare experience is in essence for you.
The experience proved to be an excellent start to my Yoga ‘career’"
My most unique experience in Kathmandu would be that I participated in my first yoga session right in the heart of Nepal. Having done Pilates once a week back in Australia, I thought I would never be as flexible enough to do Yoga, as I know some friends who do and have astonishing elasticity, and a lanky body to go with. Nevertheless, one afternoon I gave it a try for a one-hour session and will always look back to the day I attempted the many different poses in bustling Thamel, such as the Child Pose and Eagle Pose. The experience proved to be an excellent start to my Yoga ‘career’ as I now intend to join a Yoga studio and make it part of my lifestyle.
On the other hand, during my village experience the most unique experience I had would be helping to milk a buffalo with the younger sister of my host family. There are three intriguing steps to milking a buffalo, which I have learnt. First is to bring the calf to the mother in order to stimulate lactation. Next is to apply ‘ghee’ (similar texture to butter) onto the udders as it helps smoothen the milking process. Finally, it is impossible to milk a buffalo without being forceful when milking, as gentle efforts will guarantee no milk comes out. Once hard and rhythmic pulling and squeezing movements are applied, a surprising strong gush of milk will fill the bucket and it’s a fair amount!
Despite having only two weekends to spare, I crammed a weekend trip to Pokhara in the first and another to Chitwan so I had made full use of my time. In Pokhara, a 25-minute domestic flight away, we participated in acrobatic paragliding against a stunning backdrop of Phewa Lake and mountains, which was my favourite activity. We took to boating activities on Phewa Lake, visited a Temple Cave (my first!) and chilled with a cup of Nepali coffee while we enjoyed the incredible sunset by the lake. We also climbed up to the heritage site of World Peace Pagoda in the wee hours of our final morning. Nightlife was abuzz in Pokhara at the touristy Busy Bee Café. It also turned out to be a shopping heaven for books, Nepali paper and souvenir enthusiasts like myself. To put simply, it was absolutely heartbreaking to leave Pokhara.
In Chitwan, a National Park situated 5.5 hours away by van; we had a packed itinerary that ensured we got the most out of the weekend. The elephant safari was pleasant and calming, and coupled with the thrill of elephant bathing, this turned out to be a highlight of my trip. During this time, we stayed at the Jungle Villa resort. The food here was stellar and a lone rhinoceros frequently visited us. I will not forget the evening jungle and river safari by canoe. We sighted several deer, birds and crocodiles before basking in the river sunset. What’s more, on the final evening we were treated to an unforgettable cultural dance by native Tharu villagers. They performed for us five amazing dances, each of which are done for different purposes. Flora and fauna lovers alike will certainly love Chitwan.
Nepal, particularly Kathmandu, has so much to offer within a reasonable radius of travel"
Advice for future students
The most important advice I can offer future students would be to seize the opportunity to visit the local, and even more distant locations, wherever possible. Nepal, particularly Kathmandu, has so much to offer within a reasonable radius of travel. Spare some extra funds for these activities - US dollars are the preferred currency for payment so it would be wise to keep them for travel and activities. Separately, if you are still undecided or rather sceptical about taking part in a rural village healthcare experience, think no more and add that to your ‘MyTrip’ immediately. I can guarantee that it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience you will want to tell your grandchildren about, as I now hope to one day tell mine.