Cody Buongiorno is a Senior at Oregon State majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry. During Fall 2012, Cody traveled to Ecuador through IE3 Global Internships and participated in a medical rotation internship for Child Family Health International (CFHI).
Making the decision to travel to the astonishingly beautiful and diverse country of Ecuador was a remarkable and immeasurably beneficial experience. I achieved a longtime dream to study and live in a different region of the world. Throughout the three months of my Child Family Health International (CFHI) medical internship in the fall of 2012, I completed an intensive intermediate Spanish course focused on language and medical terminology. Additionally, I was privileged to work alongside and learn from seven doctors in various specialties, and interact with countless other doctors, surgeons, medical students, nurses and, of course, many patients. I was immersed in both the rich Ecuadorian culture and healthcare system. I lived with another Oregon State student and three other CFHI interns participating in different programs who were all interested in studying medicine.
The programs varied, reflecting each student’s level or experience with the Spanish language, the medical field and prior world travel. The medical coordinator, a local family medicine doctor, organized the clinical rotations and weekly progress meetings while also providing excellent advice and making the students feel comfortable. I spent seven weeks of my program in the city of Quito, and three weeks in between on the coast. I started off at a pediatric clinic and maternity hospital with my fellow OSU intern. We travelled by trolley or bus to the clinic and the hospital where we worked with doctors for four hours each morning. We then returned to the Spanish school for four hours of language classes. With this general schedule I rotated through a pediatric clinic, a maternity hospital, a surgery rotation, a family medicine clinic and a specialized hospital for oncology and hematology.
After the first five weeks, I ventured to the coast of Ecuador where I lived and worked in the rural town of Chone. The pronounced and distinct change in climate, culture, language and my personal lifestyle both refreshed and challenged me after becoming accustomed to the massive city of Quito. I lived with a loving and caring host family that assisted my assimilation into the culture and accepted me as a part of their family with open arms. I worked alongside a very caring and intelligent pediatrician with whom I spent the majority of my time. We worked eight hour days in the hospital, running between the inpatient cases and the outpatient clinic while continually referring to surgery, the ER, the ICU, radiology and other specialty areas of medicine. This portion of the program was more hands on and intense as I learned from many medical professionals, worked with my doctor one-on-one, dealt with patients while under supervision, and interacted with the entire working community of the hospital.
All the while, I took Spanish classes taught by instructors who became friends, connected with my fellow interns, integrated into multiple host families, and traveled all over Ecuador. While abroad I expanded my comfort zone and tried many adventurous activities: paragliding, waterfall repelling, bungee jumping, and finally, zip lining. The entire program was memorable. I witnessed sixteen surgeries, recorded countless interesting medical conditions, learned from many upcoming physicians in both a clinical and a classroom environment, examined children in Chone – after being taught how to perform a complete physical – and learned how to interact with doctors, nurses, and patients. I saw cases of dengue fever, severe bronchitis, intense malnutrition in children (kwashiorkor), heart murmurs, intestinal blockages, and many more. I encountered patients with remarkable recoveries, complicated surgeries and captivating medical cases. The entire culmination of experiences in my internship confirmed my desire to enter the medical field.
In the end it was difficult to say farewell to my family and to the country that helped me grow into the person I am today. I have been affected in so many wonderful ways and have the desire to travel more and experience other cultures of the world. I met unbelievable people along the way and encountered marvelous adventures. My study abroad greatly exceeded all expectations and was far more enjoyable and beneficial than I ever imagined. I entered my internship as a junior in college and, with the help of all the life lessons and skills I gained from studying abroad in Ecuador, I emerged with the goals of maintaining my Spanish, traveling the world on a greater scale, and someday becoming a doctor.