My journey through Peru and my clinical placement with Work the World were undoubtedly the most unique and valuable experiences of my life.
In the lead up to my departure, I should mention that the Work the World assistance with paperwork and pre-departure groundwork was the least stressful way of organising an overseas placement. It meant I had more time to focus on thinking about the fun parts of my trip without worrying about details and navigating a language barrier with foreign doctors.
In the week before arriving, my friends and I travelled down the west of Peru on a tour bus from Lima to Arequipa. I’d recommend this if you want to get a bit of cultural experience before starting your placement. It also helps with practising Spanish, and with getting some conversation fuel for when you’re in the hospital.
Because of the overnight bus, we arrived in the early hours of the morning in Arequipa. I was extremely grateful that the Work the World team were able to take us back to our accommodation at a time when the rest of the country was still asleep. Upon arrival at theWork the World house, I was immediately impressed. The house was the centre of our universe during our time in Arequipa. It had four floors with an awesome balcony, a living room (always packed with snacks and fruit), Netflix on demand and a local gym, all within a secure residential area.
I always felt safe, comfortable and at home.
The in-house caterer made the most amazing meals. The security team were friendly and always keen for a chat, but kept a close eye on the property and genuinely cared if we were late home after a night out. Finally, the management team always had our best interests at heart and did everything in their power to make sure we had a spectacular time.
The other important people in the house were, of course, my housemates! One of the things that made my time in Arequipa so special was having the chance to meet like-minded students from all over the world. We all got along well and enjoyed nights out, played games, and travelled together. We also learned from and supported each other in the hospital. I can’t imagine a more fun and rewarding way to have experienced my placement.
I’ll admit, my first day in the hospital was daunting. I was introduced around when we first got there, but after that, I was on my own. Staff in the hospital were forgiving of my poor Spanish, and there was often someone willing to try to help me understand. To be honest, the Work the World Intensive Spanish Course is probably worth it (I didn’t undertake it).
If you want to enjoy your time at the hospital, you should aim to be outgoing, proactive and friendly. You’ll need to take it upon yourself to ask questions and get involved.
I chose to spend four weeks across two departments: OBG and Internal Medicine. Obstetrics was an amazing experience, and it was so special to be alongside mothers from labour to delivery. I can highly recommend internal medicine—I was paired up with a different specialist each day; cardiology, respiratory, gastrointestinal, mental health, and neurology. Some of these specialists spoke English well, and the variety of medicine I was exposed to was great.
I assisted with ultrasounds, ECGs, CPR, and a local intern friend even brought me along on an ambulance ride. Of course, the other value in studying medicine in a place like Arequipa is getting a sense of how poorer patients, and hospitals with less resources, find a way to make the best of what they have. All of the doctors I saw were amazing, and on a number of occasions I was blown away by their resourcefulness and the fortitude of the patients. Many of the things I saw and experienced in the hospital have had a lasting impact on me.
Unashamedly, one of the main reasons I chose to go to Peru was the unrivalled travel opportunities. We were out exploring the country every single weekend! I’ve already mentioned the coastal tour bus we took to Arequipa, which I will re-recommend. We also went to Mollendo beach, Colca Canyon, and Lake Titicaca (please do a homestay on Amantani island—it was a highlight). I also took on the challenge of climbing Mount Misti, a 5,800m tall mountain overlooking Arequipa. It was quite possibly the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but extremely rewarding once at the top!
In the evenings after placement, we attended chocolate making classes and dancing classes, went white-water rafting, and visited bars, cafes, and restaurants all over Arequipa… the food was just the best. And don’t forget Mundo Alpaca, an ecological tourism complex with Andean colonial architecture and roaming alpaca!
Outside of Arequipa, the country kept on giving. Needless to say, Machu Picchu was just magical. You can also visit Cusco, Rainbow Mountain, and even the Amazon rainforest. There was no shortage of things to do, and I really enjoyed finding out everything that Arequipa and Peru had to offer.
I fell in love with Peru. It was such an amazing and diverse country, with some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Work the World is so well established in the eminently liveable and lovely city of Arequipa. The resources and support of the Work the World staff was spectacular, the atmosphere was one of fun and teamwork, the hospital was a unique and valuable learning experience, and there was endless entertainment in the afternoons, evenings and during weekends.
It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that I learned more about different cultures, medicine, and myself during the time I was in Peru than I ever have before. With a positive attitude and an enthusiasm for learning, I am certain that anyone else considering a placement with Work the World would have an amazing journey. I wholeheartedly recommend it!
Thanks again to the team at Work the World, and I hope that you, future traveller, have the time of your life just like I did.