I spent the most amazing summer in Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam. Here I completed two weeks of my dental elective, working in a large tertiary referral hospital.
From the very moment of booking my elective with Work the World (WtW) they were there to help. I was particularly impressed with MyTrip, an online placement planner with an interactive timeline that helps you plan your travels month by month. As the time approached when I was set to leave for Tanzania a member of the WtW team called to ensure I was fully prepared for my trip. He told me what to expect on the first few days of placement, what to take with me and contact details of the Work the World supervisors in Tanzania.
I travelled by myself so it was really nice to be greeted at the airport by the Programme Manager for Dar es Salaam. Entering the WtW house was a little like entering the Big Brother house, as for the first day you feel like you are continuously meeting new people. However I soon felt so at home and met the most amazing people.
The Orientation days at the beginning of the placement are so helpful. you get to know the people you'll be living with, get a tour of the local area, try traditional food and experience local public transport for the first time.
The area in which the house is located is lovely, with local shops and restaurants nearby, as well as a beach. The house was great, very spacious with lots of areas for socialising, as well as places where you can escape the hubbub and have some time to yourself. The best part for me was the swimming pool where many afternoons after placement were spent.
The food served by the house chef was incredible — breakfast included pancakes, biscuits, amazing fresh fruit, porridge and toast. The evening meals were a mixture of Western and traditional African dishes, which were all delicious. Whenever you were hungry there was plenty of food available in the kitchen as snacks.
Also to help you settle into the African lifestyle, free Swahili lessons are available in the house every week. These were very useful not only for communicating with the locals when out and about, but also for talking to patients in the hospital. Learning simple phases such as “hello” and “no, thank you” made life a lot easier when exploring the local area.
For me the best part of the whole two week experience was the social aspect of the house. Outside the clinical experience we spent time around the pool, got together in the evening for drinks, went to nearby bars to experience the African night life. Both of my weekends were spent with a big group of friends from the house. One weekend we went on an amazing Safari and the other to the paradise beaches of Zanzibar island just across the water.
I only went into Dar es Salaam city centre once, it's a large city so quite difficult to find your way around. However, the WtW team were always there to ask if you needed transport to somewhere, or advice on where to go. If I had more time in Tanzania, I would have definitely explored more of Dar es Salaam!
In terms of my clicnial experience, I was in a major referral hospital in the city. We travelled to the hospital by the 'dala dala' minibuses, which were the cheapest and most interesting way to get around — an experience not to be missed! On the placement I had the opportunity to observe, and later on assist in dental examinations and procedures the oral surgery department. This was a great way to gain experience working in a healthcare environment completely different to that of the UK.
The most interesting part of the placement was participating in the ward rounds with the Tanzanian dental students. Here I saw oral pathology that I would never see in the UK. Although upsetting at times, it made me appreciate the healthcare system in the UK and how accessible healthcare is here.
The only thing I would change about my elective would be to spend more time on placement and in the house, it was so sad to leave the people I had met, but I made some very good friends and had the best experiences of my life so far.