I can truly say that my horizons have been tested and broadened through this trip. The opportunity to not only carry out an internship overseas but also having to navigate living in a foreign country was an incredible experience. I learnt a lot about life, myself, India and about health systems (through my internship). But without a doubt, I would not have understood half of what I did if it weren’t for the challenges I faced and the people I met along the way. As weird as it is to word it this way, my ‘favourite challenge’ was probably getting sick. I want to clarify that when I say ‘favourite’, it’s because of the lessons I learnt from it and the things (more specifically, the people), I came to appreciate from having been sick.
Funnily enough, being sick was naively not what I thought my biggest challenge would be. Unfortunately, I was sorely mistaken. Sickness obviously comes with its physical discomfort, but the worst part about it for me was the work aspect. I couldn’t make my typical four-hour round-trip commute to work while sick, so there were quite a few days I was working from home. A large chunk of my work (and undoubtedly my favourite part of work), was going into the field, meeting the communities, and learning about the incredible volunteers who headed the health programmes. While we didn’t speak the same language, it’s true what they say, ‘a smile is the universal language of kindness’. Being invited into people’s homes to sit and talk about their health, and hearing from my colleagues about the families’ successes in bringing their children out of malnourishment while the children ran around us was an unforgettable experience for me. Seeing how hard families and volunteers worked to improve health for themselves and their children, and how they persevered in conditions which most of us can barely fathom was inspiring, and it rekindled my desire to work in healthcare. So part of the awfulness of being sick was that I couldn’t go into the communities because coming from overseas and spreading sickness was the last thing I wanted to do.
“There are friends, there is family and then there are friends that become family.“ – unknown
It’s safe to say that the fifteen of us have seen each other through some really low, and high points in our life. There’s something a little wild but also special about hopping onto a plane to live and work in a foreign country for six weeks with fourteen other strangers. Despite there being a lot of room for things to not go well, luckily, that wasn’t the case for us. Everyone was so different, coming from different degrees, perspectives, worldviews and cultures. The great thing about our differences was that we could all share our unique lived experiences, which became our friendship’s foundation (that, along with all the crazy adventures we had together, of course). While our close living quarters did mean that we all had a turn at getting sick (or at least not feeling too well) we also all had each other’s back. We were strangers, who became friends, who are now family. Our whānau of fifteen were able to help each other get better through the little pharmacy we had created between us (which was used responsibly by the guidance of our lovely medical students Tash and Jasmine). After the initial bout of sickness near the start of the trip, it felt like any ice that needed breaking within the group was gone, and we were all comfortable with each other.
Spending a month and a half overseas with the other fourteen students was probably one of the biggest highlights of the trip for me. I learnt so much from each and every one of them. The biggest one was probably to “make the most of the day, because when will you get this moment again?” That translated into:
- Late night movies
- (At least) four trips to the art festival Kala Ghoda
- After-work runs to eat chaat
- Spontaneous trips to the art gallery across the street
- Lazy strolls down Colaba Causeway
- Sunrises at the Gateway of India
- Sunsets at Marine Drive
- Turkish tea with Tabby
- Getting our Mehindi done late at night
- Juhu beach for street food
- Last-minute plane tickets to go to Jasilmear
I’ll end it there to avoid listing out every single wonderful thing we did (which would take pages and pages), but you get the idea. There were so many new experiences and things I learnt through the group, and I will forever be grateful to them and will always remember our adventures together with so much joy!
Overall, the trip was truly amazing. There were definitely some challenges, but the takeaway was that reflecting on those challenges is so important. Sure, it was hard, but what did you learn from it? Changing how you saw the challenge and finding something valuable from it means that you didn’t go through the pain for nothing, and you can add to your tool belt! As the age-old adage goes, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’.
Thank you for joining our journey! Stay safe and ka kite anō!