Deciding to go to Kathmandu for my final year medical elective was an easy decision. Choosing to travel with Work the World was an even easier one.
I had heard of Work the World through a colleague who had been to Kathmandu two years prior. Having seen what a great time they’d had, I made an enquiry through the website.
To my surprise, I received an email response almost immediately. It had a tonne of information about Kathmandu, Work the World’s partner hospital in the area, and the kinds of learning opportunities available to me. It also detailed the support I would receive.
I knew at that point that Work the World would provide me with all the guidance I needed to prepare me for my elective, ensuring that it ran as smoothly as possible.
MyTrip—Work the World’s online placement planner—was a great touch. I logged in and saw checklists for packing, a timeline to help direct my preparation, including when and how to apply for a visa, and a visual itinerary with information about where I would be staying and about my placement hospital.
MyTrip also showed me other students who would be living in the house at the same time as me. There were photos of the house and staff too, so this helped me visualise what to expect when I got there.
On arrival at Kathmandu airport, my friend and I quickly identified the member of the Work the World team who had come to meet us. They gave us a warm welcome and took us to the house, which was just a short drive away.
Our flight had arrived later than expected, so after meeting the other students at the house (and a quick bite to eat), we went straight to bed.
The following morning, the team took us on an orientation tour of the city. This was a valuable opportunity to get our bearings, purchase a local SIM card if we wanted one, and withdraw some cash. We had plenty of opportunity to ask any questions we had about life in Kathmandu.
We had our first proper dinner in the house with everyone that evening. It needs to be said that the food at the Work the World house was up there with the best I’ve ever tasted. The skilled catering team are to thank for that. And that’s without mentioning the famous weekly barbecues on the front lawn.
The kitchen cupboards were always stocked up with food, and the fridge with leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Lunch was never a problem. That said, it’s definitely worth popping into one of the various 'momo' restaurants for a tasty fix!
Our first day of placement happened to be a public holiday. So, after completing a departmental orientation, we visited Boudhanath Stupa—a peaceful Buddhist sanctuary juxtaposed against the bustle of the city.
I carried out a five-week placement at the hospital in varied specialities. I was in General Medicine for three weeks, and Paediatrics for two.
The first thing I noticed upon starting my placement was the difference between the wards in the UK and those in Kathmandu. This was ultimately down to the issue of inadequate public health funding; a large proportion of costs were covered by patients and their families. This meant that medical equipment as basic as needles and syringes were invaluable. Missing a vein when taking blood, for example, had serious consequences as families had to buy the clinician another needle!
Patients could not always afford all the necessary investigations when in hospital. Even when they could, results took much longer to arrive due to the lack of digital documentation systems. I was taken aback by the depth of local doctors’ clinical knowledge. It enabled them to deliver an impressive standard of care with far fewer resources than we have in the UK.
One case that stuck with me was that of a ten-year-old boy with renal failure. Despite the hospital having a renal transplantation service, the family couldn’t afford the necessary post-transplantation immunosuppressants.
The boy needed regular dialysis on an outpatient basis, without the prospect of a transplant. It was very upsetting to see, as a child in the UK would have received any available treatments regardless of their family’s financial situation. This, for me, solidified how lucky we are in the UK to have a healthcare system that is free at the point of access and how often we take it for granted.
I was shocked to see so many cases of post-infectious glomerulonephritis on the ward, which I later read was still a massive public health concern in developing countries like Nepal.
A massive highlight of my time in Kathmandu was exploring the city and the further reaches of Nepal alongside the amazing people I met at the Work the World house. Previous students had all added to a suggestion book full to the brim with tips about what to do and the best sights to see. We were never short of places to go.
The Work the World house team were intrinsic to the enjoyment of our experience. They were always willing to give us advice, from how much a taxi journey should cost to which temples we should visit.
We were lucky enough to celebrate the Holi festival in Kathmandu Durbar Square, which was chaos in colour! We were all multi-coloured by the end of the day and kept our no-longer-white t-shirts to remember it by.
During the evenings, we would frequent Thamel, Kathmandu’s vibrant commercial district buzzing with tourists. We browsed the endless souvenir shops and got a taste of the nightlife.
We enjoyed many weekends travelling across Nepal. We visited the ancient city of Bhaktapur, did a sunrise hike in Nagarkot, had an unforgettable trip to Pokhara by propeller plane, and went paragliding from Sarangkot. We also visited the Last Resort on the Tibetan border where we went whitewater rafting and canyoning.
Nepal is absolutely teeming with opportunities for adventure!
My experience in Kathmandu was unforgettable. I made many friends for life, and had so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences I couldn’t have had anywhere else.
All of the Work the World staff were so friendly and approachable and did their utmost to ensure our stay was comfortable. The house immediately felt like home, and friends quickly became family.
My experience would have been totally different without Work the World, and I will return to Kathmandu one day to relive it.