Barts & The London Queen Mary's School of Medicine & Dentistry 2012

Medical, Tanzania Dar es Salaam

My final year was busy and there were so many things to sort out with all the deadlines, inconveniently, coinciding. I wanted to reward myself with an amazing elective, but really didn’t think it would be possible to arrange it properly with everything else that was going on.

Some friends who had graduated the previous summer had gone to Tanzania with Work the World and they wouldn’t shut up about it. I took that as a sign.... I went on the website, chose my elective, paid my registration fee and thereafter simply followed the foolproof timeline on my personalised ‘my trip’ page.

It took all the stress out of the process and the team couldn’t have been more helpful (I have genuinely never encountered customer service that good before or since).

You’re met at the airport and taken straight to the house where you meet all the other students. The house is very comfortable, the food is plentiful and the pool is an absolute God send The only two possible downsides are that you have to do your own washing by hand and there’s no Wi-Fi, but there is an internet café 2 minutes away and once you get a technique that works for you, the washing becomes just part of the experience.... I recommend getting a few friends together, turning on some music and dancing on your clothes to get those really stubborn safari stains out!

The larger referral hospital in Dar es Salam that I was based in was big and can cater for pretty much any interest. You will basically get out of your placement what you put in. I did General Medicine and Psychiatry. Other students did Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Anaesthetics and Trauma and Orthopaedics. They all worked hard, but the experiences were unforgettable.

Almost every weekend we went on a big house trip, whether that was a safari or a weekend break on Zanzibar. The staff at the house were invaluable in helping organise these for us and having someone on the inside protected us from getting screwed over.

Highlights for me include:

Safari in Mikume national park (one of the smaller, less well known and therefore cheaper parks... no less impressive though!), where we still saw lions, a possible leopard, hippo, giraffes, zebras, elephants, wildebeest, water buffalo, gazelles, warthogs, no rhinos or hyenas, but considering there are only 50 or so black rhinos in the country, and they don’t live there, we weren’t too upset!

Hiking in the mountains of Udzungwa national park - standing on a rock at the top of a 170 meter waterfall, looking across the Morogoro region with the water cascading either side of me was the single most spectacular site I have ever seen. It was so moving that I teared up like a little girl and called my Mum. True story!

Zanzibar - it’s beautiful, relaxing, an ideal way to reward yourself after 5 years of suffering. We went swimming with wild dolphins, hiking through forests, were kissed by baby Columbus monkeys, snorkelled, touched [but definitely did not sit on] giant tortoises and relaxed with the locals. Don’t miss the Rasta party in the old fort at Stone town and if you go to Kendwa in the north of Zanzibar where you can enjoy white sand, crystal blue water, volleyball, cocktails and sunset cruises night after night, expect every other medical student on elective in East Africa to join you before long)

The Village Healthcare Experience. If you have the option, do it. The family were so welcoming and the ‘clinic’ you attend is nothing short of a minor miracle. The Doctor in charge was the GP, Medic, Obstetrician, General Surgeon, Microbiologist and Pathologist. You will also never truly grasp the impact of HIV in Sub -Saharan Africa until you have been in a small rural community and seen HIV clinics full day after day.

Right, I think that’s probably enough. Although, as I’m sure you can tell, I could very easily go on. In summary, my trip to Tanzania with Work the World was great value for money and, I felt, gave me the right balance of structure and independence to explore what and how I wanted. Perhaps, if you’re fiercely independent and just want to be able to go where the wind takes you, this might not be the elective for you, there are some rules, but for me, having just finished finals, it was stress free perfection. 

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