My name is Jessica Corcoran, and I am a fourth-year student at the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus and second year PLLC scholar. I am currently 10 weeks into my medical internship in Bharatpur, Chitwan Nepal. My placement resides at the Chitwan Medical College teaching hospital five days a week from 7am – 1pm. I am here as a volunteer through Projects Abroad, a volunteer travel agency with the goal of helping disadvantaged communities through sustainable projects.
Since being here I have had the opportunity to observe different departments, such as gynecology, maternity, orthopedics, medical intensive care unit, pediatric intensive care unit, and the OT (operating theatre). As I am still a student, I have mostly been observing and asking questions, with the occasional taking of vitals. Throughout working in the OT I had the opportunity to observe several surgeries, including multiple gall bladder removals and cesarean sections.
One of my greatest worries before arriving was that I would not make any friends while volunteering, however that fear was short-lived when I met several other volunteers from Australia, the UK, New Zealand, and Japan. As our placement only runs 5 days a week, the other volunteers and I have been using the weekends as an opportunity to further explore parts of Nepal. My first weekend was spent in Chitwan National Park where we got to explore the Nepali jungle and see wildlife so different from home. Since then, we have travelled to Pokhara, Bandipur, Lumbini, and Ghandruk.
The highlight of this experience, so far, was doing the Annapurna Base Camp trek. Myself and two other volunteers, Flora Nugee from England and Zac Whatmore from Australia, took a week out of our placement to trek in the Himalayas. The hike to base camp consisted of 6 days of walking up and down steps for an average of eight hours a day. Difficulties quickly started to surface for us as we had to deal with ankle and knee injuries, leeches, and altitude sickness. However, the other trekkers we met along the way coupled with the beautiful views made the physical demands worth it.
Despite being here for 9 weeks, I am only just starting to feel fully adjusted to the lifestyle.
As a volunteer, I live with a Nepalese host-family. This has allowed me to be fully immersed in their culture and understand some of the daily struggles they face. There is limited access to clean water, which is a struggle in this 40-degree heat, so I constantly must buy pani (bottled water) and be more cautious when deciding what to eat. While being in Nepal has brought on a lot of challenges, it has also provided me with new perspectives. I have noticed that my mindset is changing from a place of frustration to gratitude. Instead of being annoyed with the language barrier and constant heat, I find that I am more thankful for the comforts of home and the realization that clean water and air, healthcare, and electricity are not things that should be taken for granted.
So far, my stretch has been an enlightening experience and one that has broadened my perspective on the standard of international medical practices. For my remaining time here I am excited to observe the emergency and tropical medicine wards and travel to Kathmandu.
Thank you for reading! 🙂