This last winter term I embarked on a journey to beautiful South Africa as a medical intern. I was able to immerse myself in an entirely new country and culture, and was able to grow both personally and professionally. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.
The first five weeks I spent in Cape Town at a district hospital that intakes patients from the day clinics. I spent time rotating through the trauma, surgery, and orthopedics. I saw how understaffed hospitals were, and how overworked many doctors are. Many doctors are leaving the country for places that pay better, and have better lifestyles where they are not overworked. In South Africa, there are so few doctors that many day hospitals and clinics are run by nurses. Even though a lot of money is put into healthcare, I still noticed that supplies were short.
The next five weeks were spent in Durban, where I rotated around a number of medical facilities. I was able to go to a couple different day clinics, some in the rural areas just outside of Durban, as well as an orphanage, a hospice, a private hospital, and another district hospital. The focus of the Durban part of the internship was HIV/AIDS and its impact on the healthcare system in South Africa. Kwa-Zulu Natal is the province that Durban is in, and it has the highest HIV rates in the country, and one of the highest in the world. By being submerged into the medical system, I was able to see first hand how much impact HIV has on healthcare, such as resource allocation and care. There was even a huge political influence involved in the increase of HIV rates.
South Africa was an amazing country to live in. It is one of the most diverse countries in the world. No matter where I was, people were willing to help me out with questions I had, or give me suggestions on what to do. I have never experienced such amazing hospitality. I lived with host families in both cities, and loved them dearly. From day one they accepted me as their child, and cared for me. They tried to teach me their language, how to make different foods, and helped me understand the game of cricket.
Since I was an athlete, finding a time to go abroad was somewhat difficult, but also an experience I knew I couldn’t pass up. I learned way more by living with a family about the culture and customs that would be a little harder to pick up on as a vacationer.
By Laura McMahon: Oregon State University student and IE3 Summer 2010 Scholarship Recipient interning with Sea Turtles 911 in China
I’m Laura McMahon, a senior in Fisheries and Wildlife Science at Oregon State University. I am interning with Sea Turtles 911, a non profit organization working to save sea turtles in the South China Sea around Hainan Island. I feel as if I have adapted to life in China quickly, even without knowing the language. I have gotten the chance to experience a way of life many never have the opportunity to experience. The floating village is filled with people practicing their traditional ways of life, while at the same time, there are some modern technologies that have been mixed in. It’s strange how two worlds can collide and yet seem to work perfectly. The other day a couple young boys used their traditional boat to row to our floating hospital for help changing a new cell phone’s language setting from English to Chinese.
Lately, we have been busy rehabbing 3 turtles we rescued from a fisherman who no longer had use for them. He couldn’t sell them because of their poor condition. We were called to visit this fisherman at his home in the floating village, where he let us take 6 of his turtles. We found these sick turtles either in dry buckets or floating in their enclosures, it was hard to see animals in that condition, but it also felt good to lend a hand. Our sea turtle hospital transformed into something that I imagine to be similar to a hectic army hospital. We administered fluids and cleaned them, all while hoping they would make it through the night. Sadly, by the end of the week, we were only able to save 3 of the six. During the first week, the turtles were not strong enough to lift their heads above water, which resulted in each turtle resting on a life jacket with a wet towel on their backs to keep them wet. It’s a sad sight to see sea turtles that are not strong enough to even pick their heads out of the water, but during their second week, they were able to float and lift their heads. Their recovery has been slow, but they have been making progress. Over the last couple weeks, they have progressed, so far! They can eat on their own and are capable of swimming! I can’t wait to one day be able to release them back into the wild where they belong.
For so long, I have dreamed of going on an adventure of a lifetime, and living in China has been just that. I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been; in five weeks, I have had the opportunity to do things I never thought I would get the chance to do. I have been able to rescue sea turtles, ride taxi boats and rickshaws, swim with whale sharks, meet locals, and teach others about sea turtle conservation. I am half way through my time here, and it has been great experience so far. I can’t wait to find out what the other half of my internship will include!
..or, Hello, if you happen to not speak Gaeilge. Only about one in five people in Ireland speak this traditional language, but it’s still an integral part of the culture, printed on the top of all traffic signs and spoken during certain hours on live television. This mixture of traditional and modern life is prevalent not only in the language but also in the architecture, the food and the live music escaping from Temple Bar pubs at almost any time of day or night. This is why I chose to spend my summer here, to experience the unique style that makes Dublin such a lovely place to be.
More specifically, I came to work in the fashion industry using my Merchandising Management degree. Most of my friends are completing summer internships in the Northwest but I wanted to do something different and have been interested in fashion for as long as I can remember. This, combined with my desire to travel, led me to choose an internship abroad with IE3 Global Internships. My internship is with Europe’s most successful regeneration project in Ballymun, which was created out of necessity during the 1960s, where high rises were built to house residents but virtually no jobs or malls were built to support the new population. This bad planning led to poverty and everything that comes with it.
Ballymun Regeneration Limited was created in 1997 to rebuild the area, and there are multiple schemes under it, including the Rediscovery Centre. Specifically, I am helping to open the Rediscovery Centre Eco Store, a boutique which incorporates multiple projects and will be selling recreated furniture, home goods and clothing and accessories made from completely recycled materials.
Currently I am completing a guidebook for running the store, including everything from a product list to emergency information. In the next seven weeks, I will be doing a bit of Public Relations and will probably work a few festivals, which are really popular in Ireland and the UK during the summer.
The overall atmosphere is very relaxed. Even though my work site is starting a huge project, there is virtually no stress, which I definitely prefer because I can think clearly and express my ideas more freely. I am surprised at how “at home” I feel here, like part of a little family in my internship, which is so much more than I could have asked for. I am excited to watch the store grow, as well as my experience and knowledge about Ireland during the next seven weeks.
Two years ago today, I was finishing the last week of my IE3 internship in northern India. I think about it often enough that it may have ended just two days ago.
I expected to reflect upon my IE3 experience directly after my return and for years to come, but my reflection has been deeper than I initially imagined. In fact, I chose to write my University Honors College (UHC) thesis based on my IE3 internship, and therefore, these past few months have been a time of sustained and obligatory – though welcome and insightful – reflection.
My days in India consisted mainly of observation in various types of medical clinics and public health facilities scattered throughout the northern region. I knew before I left Oregon that I would likely use some facet of my experience as the foundation for my thesis, so I took handwritten and mental notes each day and typed them into my computer journal each night. Despite my acute awareness of my daily observations and experiences, it still took me quite a bit of time after returning from India to actually figure out what aspect of my internship I wanted to focus on for my thesis.
I noticed countless differences between the healthcare system in India and the US; some ways which seemed safer and more sensible and some which seemed less. As expected, I also noticed how the greater Indian society influenced the practice of medicine and the health outcomes within the northern region. This became the basis for my thesis: The Medical Culture of Northern India: A Visitor’s Perspective.
My research for the thesis was two-fold: anecdotal research based on the things I saw and did during my days in India, and literature research to validate and enhance my observations. This literature research opened my eyes to so many facets of Indian life and the culture of healthcare that I did not even pick up on during my ten weeks living there. It is hard to imagine I missed so much of the daily happenings while I was living and working in the middle of them, but I never would have made this realization had I not done some exploration upon my return. My experience ignited a flame of interest and curiosity that I took the time and energy to really investigate. Having done so, I now understand so much more about what I saw and why things happened the ways they did.
If there is one thing I discovered by writing my thesis based on my IE3 internship, it is that my education about India and the country’s healthcare system did not stop when I got on the plane to leave. Nor should it have. My advice to past, current, and future IE3 interns is to keep up on happenings in the internship country, actively learn more about the country upon return, and apply the new information to memories of the actual internship.
Above all else, I learned through this process just how much more there is to learn. I urge IE3 interns not to let the experience and the education end just because the internship ends. The reflection process should be a lifelong one – after all, (I’m sure most IE3 interns agree) the IE3 experience is a life-changing one.
In June 2008, I flew to Coffs Harbour, Australia to intern at the National Marine Science Centre (NMSC) as a Research Assistant to two professors, for six months. One of the research projects involved diving the reefs for monitoring projects and the other was a lab-based climate change research project. Within the first few weeks of my internship, I came to realize the diving project was never going to happen. Disappointed by the turn of events, I turned lemons into lemonade and devoted my time to work on the climate change research project.
To my complete surprise, I thoroughly loved the nitty-gritty lab work. My supervisor and I went snorkeling at least once a week to collect sea urchins and ran experiments that sometimes ran late into the night. I was in charge of the lab and monitored the experiments and animals every day. In December, NMSC paid for me to go a scientific conference in Sydney where I listened to world-renowned scientists talk about their research. Needless to say, when my time was up at NMSC, it was hard to leave!
Upon my return to the U.S., I had new passion for marine biology and climate change research. I remained in close contact with my supervisor in Australia about the status of our experiments and the results. As I neared graduation at OSU, I decided I wanted to continue similar research in graduate school. My relevant research experience at NMSC gave me the passion and the scientific background I needed to skip a Masters program. Now, one year after my return from Australia, I have been accepted to a Ph.D. program at the University of California Santa Barbara starting in fall 2010.
My IE3 story is one of complete success. I chose the IE3 program simply because there was a marine biology internship available in Australia, and I thought an internship would help me figure out my future. Little did I know, or expect, that the cancellation of the diving research project would benefit me and put me directly on the path towards a PhD. IE3 has been an invaluable experience both academically and travel-wise. To those students debating international internships, I say: DO IT! The benefits may stretch well beyond your expectations!
The walk from the bus stop on London Street down Abbey Hill toward Parliament only takes 15 minutes but heads up! Be alert for doggy piles, cigarette butts, pigeon poop, the occasional puddle of vomit and a twist of razor wire – we are in the city, you know! Scan the skies for pigeons and tar drippings when walking under the train trestle in this seedy pocket of neighborhood, but then…..THEN (cue harps and angels) emerging from this darkness ~ BEHOLD! Holyrood Palace on your left and behind is the glorious Arthur’s Seat (a small mountain made by volcanic rock) looming over her with Parliament only one block further. The perfect trifecta! You now find yourself at the base of the Royal Mile, the famous street that leads uphill from Parliament to Edinburgh Castle at the top. You’ll find shops and pubs and medieval historical and ghost tours right here on the main vein of the city. The people watching is endless ~ if you want history and excitement, you could spend a full week on this street.
It’s time to enter Parliament and start work. The nautical images with bamboo, glass, and steel make a person wonder at the architectural elements. Sadly, the designer passed away before his work was complete which leaves much of the building’s ambiance a puzzle and open to interpretation. Guides say the use of glass gives a person the idea that the government employees are easily accessible to the public. First step while inside: show Security official badge strung around my neck. This maneuver makes me feel important and very official. Security guards are dressed in purple shirts and ties ~ the hue represents the color of Scotland’s native flower, the thistle. Next step: beeline to café for morning dose of mocha from friendliest barista who calls me “luv”. When you’re new to a country and culture, even the smallest kind gestures mean a lot. Now, gather the hot drink and go through the first of many heavily secured doors to get to desired tower. Note to self: place official pass in front of small box to right of door and wait for beep. There’s a tricky dance involved that requires timing and patience when using your pass. Make sure not to hold it in front of fire security box or any of the other three boxes that look suspiciously identical or you will be waiting for the door to unlock, and it just won’t happen. I did this once with a group of six people behind me. Luckily a Scottish friend corrected me, laughed softly at my ignorance and I proceeded to turn beet red. Once up safely on the fourth floor, I round the corner to my desk with its phone, computer, file cabinets….a certified office nook! I am an official Intern to a Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) and couldn’t feel prouder.
The days are filled with activity. One day I may be drafting letters to politicians from other countries, or doing research and compiling information about the MSP’s Cross-Party Groups. I was fortunate to get to learn everything I could about Visual Impairment issues in Scotland, the Housing Crises, Knife Crimes, and Funerals and Bereavement. Here’s an interesting bit of information about the latter: in order to create a smaller carbon footprint, it’s becoming possible to freeze a dead body, shatter it, then grind it into a powder to be kept in a special place or scattered into the wind. It is an eco-friendly method that prevents trees from being cut down for coffins and prevents smoke from polluting the air from cremation. This is only ONE of the many exciting things I learned during the internship.
Some days I stuff envelopes, run errands, or escort special guests up to the office from the Garden Lobby. Other days I work on projects like searching for postal codes for constituents, answering phones, filing, or attending meetings and receptions in the evening. There is always something exciting to do and learn, and sometimes the best experiences are the simple ones, like when you find yourself sharing an elevator with a friendly person who wants to chat. As soon as you exchange pleasantries, the next comment will certainly be this, “Are you from Canada or the states?”
In the evening I often join a small group of MSP’s and their Assistants or other random Parliamentary staff for drinks up the Royal Mile at the Toll Booth Tavern. This is a wonderful authentic old pub built in 1591 and originally used as a place to collect taxes and as a jail. In 1820 it became a tavern and I must say, has delicious french-fries! Of course I was corrected, they are called “chips”, and American “potato chips” are “crisps”.
By 9PM I am getting sleepy and I still have to walk 15 minutes to the nearest bus stop and take the 30 minute ride back to my sea-side apartment in Portobello. As I ride the bus at night, I reflect on the day and think about what tomorrow will bring. An elderly man gets on the bus and stands in front of me holding the railing. I touch him on the arm and ask, “Would you like my seat?” and as I start to stand up, he replies, “No thank you, luv. I’m not as old as I look.” And we both have a giggle.
Upon completing her IE3 internship, Margaret O’Neill returned to Scotland to look for full-time employment. She is now a Parliamentary Assistant to Mr. Alastair Morgan MSP in his constituency office in Dalbeattie, Scotland.
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