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2 Week Specials, Medicine in Nepal by Amanda Yeo

A rhino spotted during a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park

In December, I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in the High School Special Medicine Project based in Chitwan, Nepal. I coincidentally stumbled upon Projects Abroad at a university function and the reason I selected this project, in particular, was that I am interested in pursuing medicine as a career.

First impressions

My first impression of Nepal was that it was breathtaking. Upon arrival, the beautiful prayer-flag decorated streets greeted me. I arrived several days prior to the commencement of the project, so I had more time to settle in, visit the tourist streets in Kathmandu, as well as get to know the other volunteers better. I was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome I received upon arrival by the volunteer supervisors, it definitely put me at ease knowing the people in Nepal were so friendly and welcoming. The staff on my project were approachable and they gave me valuable advice and tips on what to expect.

My Medicine Project

We visited four hospitals in Chitwan. In any aspect of the medical field, some days are busy, and some days were slower, it is all dependent on luck. Before coming to Nepal, I assumed that all hospital would be swamped with patients and exciting procedures would be taking place, but that was not always the case.

In the eye hospital, it was up to the volunteers to take the initiative and ask questions in order to understand the procedures the doctors were performing. I spoke to a junior doctor in the outpatient department, and he taught me so much in regards to optometry - before this trip, I had no idea about anything eye-related, nor had any interest in the matter. Now I can proudly say that I can explain the anatomy of an eye, the potential causes of cataracts as well as explain a bit about astigmatism. I definitely encourage any future volunteers to ask many questions, and to interact with the nurses, interns and doctors in the hospital.

High School Special volunteers in a hospital in Nepal

In the cancer hospital, we were invited to research common cancers and diseases affecting the Nepalese population, so I decided to research breast cancer and tuberculosis. We also had an opportunity to observe in the minor operating theatre, where we saw the doctors changing wound dressings, as well as encounter patients that had prostate cancer and breast cancer.

In the family planning hospital, we had an opportunity to observe a vasectomy and a surgical abortion, which was certainly an interesting experience.

The most exciting thing for me was witnessing a natural birth. Whilst exploring the post and pre-surgical ward was a fantastic learning experience, I don’t think anything can top watching someone give birth. It was truly a mind-blowing experience, as I hope to become an obstetrician myself in the future. After witnessing such an incredible event, I decided immediately that if I am given the opportunity pursue my dream, I would be happy delivering babies for rest of my life. I honestly could not stop smiling after this experience, it was inspirational and it has motivated me to work harder in order to achieve my goal.

Daily and weekend activities

High School Special volunteers spending time with the children at a local school

Each day in Nepal was drastically different from the next; one day we would get a nursing demonstration, the next we visited a primary school to teach children how to maintain their dental hygiene. We also had an opportunity to learn about the human anatomy by observing a cadaver. Every day we had a new exciting event to look forward to; there was no day where I felt unproductive or restless. We participated in so many activities. There was 6.30am Zumba classes (for any early birds), traditional Nepalese dance class, and yoga. We learned how to fold momo’s (Nepalese dumplings) and attending lectures and demonstrations from nurses, doctors and surgeons. Over the weekend, we went on a jungle safari in the Chitwan National Park, we visited a museum, watched a dance performance, visited an elephant enclosure and sat outside by a campfire singing along to Disney tunes.

Accommodation in Nepal

The accommodation at the hotel was good as a whole. The staff were incredibly friendly and they were always happy to help. The food was delicious, I loved the chicken curries and momo’s. There was always a variety of food and I never went to bed hungry.

Final thoughts

Medicine volunteers exploring Nepal

I definitely recommend any student thinking of volunteering abroad to go to Nepal, whether it be a Medicine, Care or any other project. I cannot stress how much fun I had in Nepal; honestly, it was the best two weeks of my life. I met a great group of individuals and I definitely forged lifelong friendships. It was especially heart-warming to be surrounded by such a fantastic group of individuals that share similar interests to me and possessed a similar drive for learning. I think this project really allowed all of us to bond. I felt as though everyone on my trip was my family away from home, and there was never a point in my stay where I felt alone. My advice to future volunteers is to take initiative in social situations and ask as many questions as possible during placements; no question is a stupid question, and the only way you are going to learn is to ask for help.

I truly miss Nepal so much; the people, food, culture especially. At the end of the day, I am so incredibly thankful for my experiences in Nepal.

Amanda Yeo

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