I had decided to undertake a placement abroad in March 2013 and I actually embarked on this placement in June 2013 for two weeks. After searching online a little I came across Work the World and decided to go with them as a friend had used them the previous year for a dentistry placement. I had little choice for the location of my placement as at that time, Ghana was the only host country taking on Pharmacy placements. However, I did not once regret going to Ghana and would definitely visit again.
The initial steps of arranging the placement were paying the placement fees, sorting the visa and booking a flight. The preparation before the placement was also very simple because of the ‘Info Pack’ that Work the World provided me with and I managed to sort everything even though I only had around 3 months on top of exams. Work the World had also been in touch a few times before my departure to confirm my placement and to discuss my responsibilities once in Ghana. I was due to set off on June 8th and even though I was prepared for the trip physically, my mind was uneasy about going to an alien country for the first time.
My arrival was swift and Ezekiel’s welcome was very comforting as I was travelling alone. Once three other students also landed we moved onto a hotel for the night, and then travelled from Accra to Takoradi the next morning. Ghana is a bustling place with lots of cars constantly beeping and lots of people constantly greeting you, and this strangely made it seem homely.
My time in Takoradi may have only consisted of two weeks, but the Ghanaian staff made sure I made the most out of my two weeks there. The Ghana programme manager, Joseph, gave me two placements! My first week was working at the regional hospital and my second week was working in a community pharmacy.
At the hospital I spent Mondays and Fridays in the male surgical ward where I assisted professional pharmacists and doctors on their ward rounds and contributed to actual patient cases and treatment options. Tuesdays were spent in the main dispensary helping the pharmacy technicians adhere to prescriptions and prepare the medicines for the pharmacist to check and dispense. The main dispensary was very busy the first week as a lot of pharmacists were on strike at the time so we had a higher flux of patients visiting our dispensary. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I volunteered at the HIV clinic located on the hospital grounds. I enjoyed my time at the HIV clinic most as I learnt a lot about the virus and the management and treatment that follows it. The hospital was full of friendly and bubbly staff that never ceased to help me when I was stuck.
During my second week, I worked at the regional hospital as usual from 8.30am-2pm then I volunteered at the community pharmacy from 7-9.30pm. This sounded excessive at first but the time actually flew when I was at the community and I still got to do my own things in between 2-7pm. In the community pharmacy, I had a completely different experience. It was less clinical and I was less in the background. I was at the till and actually speaking to customers and recommending products. I was able to get a taste of being an actual pharmacist and it was amazing. I felt like I was part of the family, I felt the same at the hospital dispensary but because there were so many people contributing in the hospital you don’t get to spend as much time together. Both placements gave me a world of experience in so little time and I am forever grateful to WTW for organising this.
My time away from placement was very well spent. Most afternoons, I was either lazing about in the Work the World house with my housemates, who were all colourful personalities, or I was hanging at Africa Beach in the blazing sun. Some days I visited Market Circle where I either bought souvenirs or fabric to get sewn by the ladies across the road from the WTW house. The three things I looked forward to most on my time off was 6pm (when our cook Ophelia served us an amazing meal every time), Thursdays (when we had our crazy fun barbeques with Al-Hasan and the other staff), and the weekends.
Since I only had two weekends worth of a stay I was only able to enjoy so much of Africa as I could possibly fit. On the first weekend I had just arrived so I didn’t really go away anywhere, however, my lovely housemates took us newbies out to Vienna Beach Resort where a live band was playing old school tunes and some African music. It was great fun and a really good way of meeting everyone for the first time and letting off some steam from the long plane ride.
During the week, Ezekiel was kind enough to direct us to a local orphanage. This was probably the most emotional experience because the kids were so happy and content, it was really humbling. I would recommend the volunteering at the orphanage to anyone and everyone that visits Ghana.
The second weekend we spent was away at Cape Coast where I visited Elmina Castle for a tour - this was where the slaves were held by the Dutch and British emperors. After Elmina, we travelled to Kakum National Park where we spent the whole night in a treehouse! It was a very interesting experience to say the least. I can proudly say I was able to last a night in a rainforest and use a hole in the ground as a toilet.
The morning after the treehouse, we trekked through the rainforest to the canopy bridges. These bridges were 40m high and very wobbly but everyone was able to successfully climb over them all. On our way home from Kakum we stopped off at a crocodile resort where we had some breakfast, watched some pretty birds, and casually stroked a crocodile or two. Yes, they were real! The crocodile I stroked even obeyed to the word ‘sit’. We had a great weekend away and I was able to make relationships and memories that I wouldn’t find back in England. The weekend after (when I left unfortunately) my housemates planned a trip to the safari and monkey sanctuary, I was naturally jealous.
The above is just a brief summary of my invaluable time abroad and doesn’t really convey the extent of my enjoyment. I would recommend a Work the World placement abroad to everyone, especially a placement in Ghana, which will surprise you in so many wonderful ways. My only regret is not having booked a longer.
If you are going to travel abroad and you want a hassle-free experience with seamless organisation within the host country, then I would definitely recommend Work the World.