When choosing where to do my elective, my only criteria were that a) I wanted to be in a very different hospital environment, and b) somewhere hot!
It turned out that Iloilo, the Philippines was my perfect match.
As a young female travelling alone, it was important to me that I went somewhere I would feel safe. Arranging my elective through Work the World meant I was living in a house with other students, and with 24/7 security. I also had 24/7 access to the Iloilo Work the World in-country team. I felt more safe than I ever have!
Before I left the UK, Work the World were really helpful in organising my trip. Between their online placement planner and regular phone calls, I felt fully prepared. I learned everything from what to pack in my suitcase to what I should expect on my first day in hospital.
After a 24-hour journey travelling from Manchester to Iloilo, it was such a relief to see a member of the Iloilo team there waiting for me at the airport with a friendly smile on his face.
We took a taxi back to the Work the World house together. Dinner was waiting for me when I arrived, and the team showed me to my room. It felt like home right away.
Like the rest of the house, the bedrooms were spacious yet homely. They each came with an en-suite bathroom! The rooms were all spotless, cleaned every day and bedding changed regularly.
There were fans and mosquito nets around the beds, which meant I slept well (I quickly adjusted to the time difference).
The best part of living in the Work the World house was the food. The catering team made the most delicious food, morning and night. If you think you’re going to lose weight in Iloilo, you’re seriously wrong.
I quickly made friends with the other students as we dined together every meal, watched films on the sofas, or sunbathed on the roof terrace.
The main reason I chose to do my elective in Iloilo was for the hospital experience. I split my placement between the delivery room and the neonatal unit.
The hospital was underfunded and overcrowded, and the doctors regularly worked 36-hour shifts. They had to adapt to manage patients with limited time and resources. The added complexity of cultural differences surrounding pregnancy and birth meant it was a very different experience to the UK—I saw lots of clinical cases I haven’t seen before.
The doctors were busy and tired, but always made time to answer my questions. They let me get involved where I felt comfortable and was qualified to do so. It was great to be a helpful part of the team.
When it came to travel, Iloilo was the perfect base for visiting different parts of the Philippines. Every weekend, we visited different islands—we actually managed to visit more than 10 islands in 6 weeks!
We bathed in the Bugtong Bato falls, ate mangoes on Guimaras island, sunbathed on the white sand beaches of Isla de Gigantes, and went snorkelling in the Lagoons near El Nido.
We travelled along the underground river in Palawan, ate scallops and crabs fresh from the sea, soothed hangovers in Lakawon, hiked to see monkeys and watched the sunset in Sabang.
It was the busiest and best six weeks I could have hoped for.
I came home from the Philippines with a suntan, some wonderful friends and a huge appreciation for the NHS. I am so lucky that I was able to call the Philippines home for six weeks.