Throughout my life, travel has always been extremely important to me. It is where I most frequently push myself past my boundaries, discover, and grow. Prior to my undergraduate studies, I had done some brief travel to Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Greece, and Turkey. Due to these travels, I knew I wanted to incorporate education abroad into my studies, however, being a STEM student majoring in Nutrition limited my opportunities for traditional study abroad programs. Initially, I was deterred by the “limited” opportunities I had, nevertheless I was determined to find a program I could participate in. With continued inquiries to the education abroad office on campus, I found that “traditional” study abroad programs are just a few of the numerous education abroad opportunities offered. What fit best for me as a STEM student was to participate in an internship abroad which would provide me with real world occupational experience. Looking at education abroad from an occupational standpoint, I re-framed my view of this future experience as a capstone to my undergraduate career.
Since I was in a pre-med program and struggling to find quality clinical experience in the U.S., I began to focus my search for internship abroad programs on the medical field. I hoped this spotlight on medicine would help me decide if I wanted to apply to medical school, or pursue other health career avenues. At this point, I found a unique program called Child Family Health International, which offers observational medical internships in numerous countries. Knowing I would only have 10 weeks abroad, and wanting the most breadth in the medical field during this time, I applied for a 10 week internship in India that would take me through rotations in Cardiology, Pediatrics, Emergency, Traditional Medicine, and Public Health specialties.
The internship allowed me to work one-on-one with multiple renowned doctors throughout India. As a lifelong learner and an avid knowledge seeker, I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to take what I had learned in my studies and see it directly applied to improve an individual’s quality of life.
One moment in particular that will always stand out to me is the day I was sitting with Dr. Joshi, a cardiologist in the Dehra Dun Hospital. He was handing me electrocardiograms (EKG) to look over, with each one repeatedly being normal. Finally, an abnormal EKG passed my eyes and I was able to correctly discern it. Dr. Joshi was so ecstatic that I knew how to interpret an EKG that a lengthy conversation between us, with some strange comparisons about cause and treatment, followed.
While my internship in India offered me a wide breadth of exposure to the medical field, it also provided me with a wide-ranging and intense personal understanding of the culture. Because my internship was split between so many specialties, it also took me to multiple cities, towns, and villages. From staying in an Ashram with no bed, to living in a home stay with rats in my closet, to staying with a caretaker who spoke zero English, my personal boundaries were pushed, exhausted, and rebuilt. I made many great friends and friendships that will last a lifetime and have crossed oceans already.
There were many other unique experiences and learning moments throughout my internship. I spent time in a rural clinic that served 40,000 patients; I was lectured for two weeks by a 103-year-old man on the principles of ayruveda; I saw more babies born in two weeks than I ever thought I would witness in my life.
Needless to say, my education abroad experience was a capstone to my undergraduate career. Not only was it a pinnacle point in my life but I do believe that it has become the launching pad for the next chapter in my life and career. Prior to my internship abroad, I was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Having the wonderful privilege of accepting this scholarship made all the difference in my education abroad experience. As a Gilman Scholar I was required to plan and complete my own Follow-On Service Project, which would allow me to reach out to individuals and other scholars and share my experience. Not only did the scholarship directly benefit my experience financially and alleviate a lot of my stress, it allowed for me to document, share, and articulate my experience with others in a way that I simply would not have done without being awarded the scholarship.