University of Manchester 2009

Medical, Ghana Takoradi

I decided to travel alone because I thought it would be good to get out there on my own and meet new people.  However, the prospect of finding myself in a foreign country with a different language and culture, with no one else for support was quite daunting, and this is what attracted me to the Work the World programme.

On arrival in Ghana I had a member of the team, Prince, to greet me and after arriving in Takoradi, a guided tour around the town and a very authentic Ghanaian lunch, all courtesy of John, another member of the team.  When you are there you really do appreciate having local people to give you advice, even something as simple as taxi fares so that you don't pay over the odds.

At first I was stunned at how different everything in the country seemed, I had never been to such an un-westernised area.  However, the most striking difference was the friendliness of the Ghanaian people, strangers would wish you good morning, everyone would ask how you were and locals went out of their way to help you in any way they could.  In fact whilst waiting for a taxi to the hospital, a football team offered me a ride in their mini-bus, which was possibly the most interesting journey I've ever had!

I saw a child with sleeping sickness, another with tetanus and many with malaria, diseases I would be unlikely to come across in a lifetime in the UK

A reason for choosing Ghana was for me to see medicine in a completely different setting, in a low resource area where diagnoses had to be made and treatment had to be given without the simple equipment that we take for granted in the UK.  This meant that diagnosis was much more challenging as you had to rely more on clinical judgement and medical knowledge. I also wanted to go to a place where the spectrum of disease would be very different from what I was used to, and it certainly was.  I saw a child with sleeping sickness, another with tetanus and many with malaria, diseases I would be unlikely to come across in a lifetime in the UK.

Another great part of the experience was being able to discuss events and cases with colleagues back in the WTW house.  There was a large area for socialising and a balcony where we all spent a lot of time together, and I have made some brilliant friends.  We went travelling at weekends as a group, and for me this was just as important as the hospital environment in making it such an enriching experience.  We managed to pack a lot into our time, we slept in a forest and did a dawn canopy walk, danced around a bonfire with a Rastafarian and went on a crocodile hunt in hollowed out tree bark!  But I was always glad to get back to the house, to the amazing smell of our house manager Ophelia's home cooked meals.

I think I would have had a great elective no matter where I went and who with.  However, I think the two things that really stood out for me that Work the World offered were that I went out and stayed with other elective students, and that I had a network of exceptional staff around me both in the UK and in the host country.

I can't recommend more highly Ghana as an elective destination, you will see diseases you will never see again and like me you won't be able to wait to go back!

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