by Work the World

Students are often slightly anxious about travelling overseas for their placements, particularly on their own.  So this week we're asking the students in Africa, Asia and South America, "Were you nervous about travelling overseas for your placement? How did you conquer your fears and what advice can you give to future students?"

Arryl travelled to Arusha all the way from Canada “Before leaving for my elective, my circulating thoughts covered every emotion: excitement, fear, concern, and yearning. I was about to travel eighteen hours to the continent Africa. Needless to say, I settled in so quickly! The only advice I wish to leave you with is to go with an open (and un-judgemental mind) and literally jump, leap, and bound to these amazing opportunities that await you. This is more than a medical placement; this is a life changing opportunity and one that can forever impact your future. Do anything and everything you can, from climbing a mountain, to eating raw goat kidney. Your Tanzanian life awaits you. Have fun, play safe. And remember, this is Africa.”

Daren tells us “I was very nervous about coming to Dar es Salaam and felt slightly intimidated being the only mzungu on the Daladala. But there was nothing to be nervous about- just learn the word MAMBO and 99% of people will reply POA or SAFI and they are really friendly.”

“One of my most fears before I arrived here was falling sick, fever, and diarrhoea and vomiting!” Said Enrique “But its five weeks now and I am okay so HAKUNA MATATA. Don’t forget your vaccines and anti-malarials.”

Benny wasn’t too anxious, but “a little apprehensive as I had never been to Africa before. I would tell future travellers that the part of Dar that WTW are in is extremely safe; they do everything to ensure your security. Everyone is extremely friendly and say “Hello” to you in the street. If anything people are more friendly here than at home. Enjoy it. Embrace it.”

Martin wasn’t too worried about travelling overseas but “I was anxious about my experience in the hospital. I would encourage anyone coming here to look upon the experience as once in a life time and to make the most of it. Being assertive and putting yourself forward in the hospital will really help you get the most out of your time in Dar.”

Sunil the Programme Manager in Nepal wrote to us saying that “People who come to Nepal are all brave hearts! Our students weren't nervous at all as they had most things taken care of after signing up with WTW."

For Shreya and Sunny, this trip was the first of its kind and it has really boosted their confidence to travel and explore more. “If you are feeling nervous, you just have to swallow your fears and go for it, the only way to overcome it is by doing it.” Sarah and Andrew just mentioned the airport “When you arrive, the airport in Kathmandu is pretty crazy but you just have to hold on to your bags and not be ushered out to the tens of taxis.”

Joe is the Programme Manager in Ghana and he told us that “Almost everyone in the house had a little bit of nervousness when they decided to come to Africa. Even Tiggy who had visited Africa before still felt some fears which stemmed from the fact that she didn’t know how different it was going to be from Tanzania” but she tells us “I spoke to my Ghanaian friends and they constantly reassured me how friendly and safe it is in here and coming through a company really put my mind at rest.”

Elizabeth’s mum told her she wasn’t allowed to be scared! But she agreed that her apprehension was the “result of not knowing what to expect.” The whole house has provided some advice;

  • Everyone is really friendly just as you are told by Rob in the UK.
  • There are some fears that people will not understand you but they do so try not to worry about communication.
  • People who have not travelled on their own before should also know that there is always someone to help.  From the Airport to the hotel to the house in Takoradi; you are provided with support. And once you are at the WTW house you will meet other students from back home who you can share your experience with.
  • At the placement, it is just like home really – what you put in is what you get out. Staff are willing and ready to get you involved so long as you show enthusiasm by asking questions and for permission to do stuff.
  • Food in the house is amazing and the last thing is to keep a smiling face as it helps everywhere in Ghana!


“Before heading to Argentina I was mostly scared of the language,” says Delia from Northern Ireland. “I’m not fluent in Spanish and I feared I wouldn’t be able to communicate with others, especially while on placement. Fortunately, my Spanish improved greatly during my first two weeks and I’ve managed to make myself understood in most situations.”

Another thing that scared Delia was the idea of not getting along with the other WTW students at the house.  “I was worried about not fitting in”. However, this was not at all the case and Delia got along with everyone right away and felt immediately at home. “I’m happy to say I’ve met some brilliantly nice people during my stay in Mendoza. I would tell future students not to worry about anything! All students are in the same situation and they are all very friendly and welcoming. Also, everyone in the staff is young and speaks great English. They’ve all been very supportive at all times!"

Lucy says she wasn’t exactly scared of travelling to Argentina but the thought of leaving her life behind for six weeks when she had just got it back after exams was a little daunting. “I overcame this by reminding myself of why I had chosen to come to Argentina which was to improve my Spanish and get more experience in Paediatrics.” Also, she says she was a bit worried about the things that she would be expected to do on placement or that she wouldn’t have the same level of preparation as other students.  “Fortunately, it’s been reassuring to know that we all are in the same position. We are all eager to learn more and more each day and expand our knowledge.” 

Julie in Sri Lanka was nervous because she was travelling on her own but “Nili met me at the airport so I had no trouble hailing a taxi or tuktuk and could just relax, sit back and enjoy my new home” She was also worried about not having anyone to explore Sri Lanka with but found that the house “provided more than enough new friends wanting to travel.” Julie also told us “don’t worry about travelling locally either, there are a select few tuktuk drivers who are known to the programme managers and take you everywhere for a fixed price.” And finally she adds a little bit of advice if you’re concerned about working in the hospital. “Really don’t feel nervous, you can easily observe until you’re comfortable and you won’t be asked to participate until you put yourself forward.”

So you see... nothing to be scared of!

We think that one of the hardest parts of organising an elective is actually deciding where to go. Whether you’re tempted by the tribes of Africa; the mountains of Asia or the flavour of South America, wherever you decide to go your elective overseas will no doubt enrich both your professional and personal development in a safe, supported environment. 

 We currently work in seven locations around the world and like to talk to students in depth about each destination before they make a decision – this way they can work out which placement is most suited to them. So the question we chose to ask the houses this week is “Why did you choose to do your placement in the destination you’re in?”


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