I was inspired to undertake an elective abroad after Work The World visited my university. Speaking alongside them was a student who had undertaken an elective with them in Tanzania.
She told us all about her experience; what she had learnt and how valuable the experience was to her.
The event was informative, answering all of our questions and concerns.
I hadn’t really thought about where I wanted to spend my elective before hearing her speak. But now I knew I wanted to go somewhere different.
I knew I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this. It was one I wouldn’t likely get again.
It meant no stress trying to plan an overseas elective alongside my studies.
I looked at the website and the reviews from previous students were overwhelmingly positive. Everyone had thoroughly enjoyed their experiences and encouraged students like me to jump in.
When I got home, I contacted Work the World and secured my place on a two-week elective in Sri Lanka, Kandy. It was, to me, the destination that stood out the most.
Someone from Work the World contacted me shortly thereafter. They welcomed me to the programme, and ensured me that the organisation would take care of everything. That meant no stress trying to plan an overseas elective alongside my studies.
My trip to Sri Lanka was my first trip abroad by myself. In fact, I had only travelled by plane once before, for two hours.
Someone from Work the World’s Kandy team met us at the airport then took us to our accommodation.
On the way, he took us for a bite to eat. We were tired and hungry, so it was much appreciated. He introduced us to the local food and explained a little about Sri Lankan culture.
When we arrived at the Work the world house, he took us on a tour. He helped us get our luggage upstairs and showed us the rooms we were staying in.
The next day, one of the staff members took us on a city orientation around Kandy. We learned where all the good restaurants were, where the shopping centre was, and the best places to change our money to Sri Lankan rupees.
My main placement goal was to get experience delivering healthcare outside of the NHS. I wanted to observe how healthcare was provided in a developing country with limited equipment and resources.
My original plan was to get some experience in critical care. Luckily, the person I spoke to at Work the World was highly knowledgeable. They advised me that I wouldn’t see much of a difference in this area; the department needed to meet stringent guidelines to deliver critical care.
I saw the entire patient journey. From admission to investigation, through to the surgery itself.
My assigned Work the World adviser (in the UK) explained to me that one area in which I’d see a significant difference was general surgery. That included emergency surgeries.
I was grateful for the advise, as otherwise I mightn’t have seen what I wanted.
This meant I rotated between the theatres, a surgical ward and endoscopy. I saw the entire patient journey. From admission to investigation, through to the surgery itself.
At the start of my first week of placement, Work the World introduced me to my Nursing supervisor, and a surgeon who I’d shadow for the next two weeks.
I must admit I was worried about the language barrier. Would I be able to ask questions? Would I understand what I was observing?
When it came down to it, my supervisors actually spoke fantastic English. They explained every patient, every case. I always knew what was going on.
As an aside, we had Sinhala lessons once a week in the Work the World house, Sinhala being the local language. The language teacher made the lessons fun, and we learned words and phrases such that we could communicate with staff and patients in the hospital.
I observed surgeries up-close. All the while, the surgeon explained how the Sri Lankan healthcare system differed to the UK. Most local staff were eager to teach.
My time in the hospital truly made me appreciate the NHS
My time in the hospital truly made me appreciate the NHS. It also made me appreciate how Sri Lankan staff worked with what little they had, while providing the best possible care.
The experience was eye-opening and one I will always remember.
MY FREE TIME
Back to the house.
We had special student nights that helped all the housemates get to know each other. BBQ nights were once a week. The catering team prepared different food each day to give us a sense of Sri Lankan cuisine.
I got to know the other students who’d been in the house longer than me. They suggested great places to visit in the afternoons and at weekends. They actually invited me along on weekend trips so I never had to travel alone.
Staff at the house were never short of travel suggestions. They knew the area well (they’re all from Sri Lanka) and always knew the best places to visit.
We visited Galle fort, Unawatuna beach, an elephant orphanage, a turtle sanctuary...
One weekend, the students who were already in the house invited me to go with them on a trip to Galle, near the coast.
We made full use of the weekend, and although it was a 6-hour trip it was worth it.
We stayed at a beautiful sea-front hotel and spa and — with our own personal tour guide — visited Galle fort, Unawatuna beach, an elephant orphanage, a turtle sanctuary, a moonstone mine, tsunami museums…
Work the World planned everything before I flew out. They were well organised and the Kandy team took care of everyone in the house.
I not only had the chance to witness a totally different kind of healthcare, but went sightseeing, learned about a different culture, and made many good friends.
My advice to you if you’re considering a placement with Work the World is to go for it!
Work the World arrange everything for you and support you every step of the way. They ensure your safety, check up on how you’re doing mid-placement and answer any questions you may have.
I guarantee you’ll enjoy and value the experience. You’ll never forget it. You will see healthcare in a totally different light, and see the world while you’re at it.