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2 Week Specials, Medicine & Spanish in Argentina by Suma Gondi

Suma Gondi – Medicine & Spanish High School Special in Argentina

Art being sold on the street in Cordoba

Everything is beautiful in Cordoba - cinnamon coloured leaves, buses on concrete roads, and stark white hospital hallways. Travelling to Argentina for a medical volunteering trip last summer was a monumental learning experience. Although my schooling taught me plenty about biology and diseases, my experiences in Argentina allowed me to explore medicine through a unique perspective.

Why I chose Argentina

Crafts designed by the locals in Argentina

I specifically chose to go to Argentina because I was interested in Spanish and the South American culture. Growing up as a huge football fan, I idolised Messi and was immediately drawn to Argentina when I found that they had the placement I wanted. By joining a High School Special, my parents were reassured that I would be safe at all times, and I was also relieved that I would be with others since I knew very little Spanish.

My host family

High School Special volunteers after a football game

The first thing we did in Argentina was meet our host families. My family was very welcoming, and I was placed with two other volunteers who were in the same medical programme. We were all from very different parts of the world, but we all found common ground in our interest in medicine. Also, we were all similar ages which made us get along very well.

Every day, our morning started very early with a breakfast of toast and dulce de leche. While simple compared to my typical bacon and eggs, it was very filling and a common sight in Argentina. Also, I discovered the magical combination that is coffee and dulce de leche.

Medicine Project in Cordoba

Medicine & Spanish volunteer exploring Cordoba

After breakfast, we would travel to various hospitals to shadow doctors. I got to see multiple appendectomies as well as shadow an ophthalmologist and an ER doctor. We even got to work in a clinic doing free diabetes screenings. The differences between American hospitals and Argentinean hospitals were shocking. Going from a marble-floored, glass-panelled private hospital to overcrowded public hospitals was just one example of the challenges that the poorer populations in Argentina face. We also go the opportunity to join in on a human rights protest.

Learning Spanish

After the hospital, we would typically go back to our homes and eat lunch and relax for a little bit. Later in the day, we would walk to Spanish class at the Projects Abroad office and reunite with our fellow volunteers. The Spanish teachers were nice and understanding, and there were several levels based on how much Spanish you knew.

Social and weekend activities

Volunteers watching a surgery from the observation room

In the evening, we explored the city and did various fun activities that connected us with the Argentine culture as well as our fellow volunteers. Some of my favourite activities include salsa dancing, shopping at the flea market, and playing soccer. While I wouldn’t normally go out and do these things, I ended up having an amazing time and getting really close to the people I was with. Hiking up to a waterfall was something I also loved doing. It was well worth the work, and we got some amazing pictures from it.

Overall, I loved doing medical work in Argentina, and I found that the activities were immersive and incredible. The staff in Argentina consisted of some amazing people who were helpful and knowledgeable. They made me feel at home during my entire trip. I’m also still connected with the volunteers I spent my two weeks with as well as the staff from Argentina. I can’t wait to go on more trips and hopefully return to Argentina in the future.

Suma Gondi

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