Centre News

Students experience worldly work with international internships: Part 2

February 14, 2013 By Leigh Cocanougher       
Lisa Alley Lisa Alley spent CentreTerm in the Yucatan, where she visited
historic landmarks when not interning at a local hospital.

Lily Brooks Lily Brooks recently completed an internship in Ghana where,
among other duties, she helped deliver babies.

This is the second in a series of stories about international internships at Centre.

On Jan. 31, 21 Centre College students returned to campus as changed people. Having spent their CentreTerm weeks abroad completing internships, the students are beginning spring semester with new world views, new knowledge and new appreciation for work—and life—in foreign countries.

Hands-on Learning in the Yucatan

Lisa Alley, who spent January in Merida, Mexico, working at a local hospital, says her inspiration to take part in her international internship was "that it was a combination of the two things that I am most interested in: Spanish and public health. I also liked that we were going to have the opportunity to experience a lot of cultural aspects of Mérida along with our internships."

While in the Yucatan, Alley spent her days observing surgeries, shadowing orthopedists and residents of internal medicine during their daily rounds, learning how to perform basic medical tests (such as manual blood pressure), and administering shots.

The experience, she says, was even more enlightening than she'd expected. "The thing that surprised me most was how much of a hands-on experience the Mérida doctors wanted me to have," she says. "They really encouraged me to not be timid and to just get in and do things. For example, a man come into the ER one day and needed his finger sutured back on, and the doctors allowed me to do some of the sutures! It was definitely a unique experience."

As beneficial as her hands-on training was, Alley says that interacting with the patients was the most rewarding aspect of the internship. "No matter what they were in the hospital for, they were always very gracious and kind," she says. "I once told a patient that I was leaving back to the United States in just a few days, and she replied, 'Te quedas en la Yucatán,' which means, 'You stay in the Yucatán.' That warms my heart every time I think about it because it made me feel like my time spent in the hospital meant something to someone else, too."

Practicing Medicine in West Africa

Also completing a medical internship during CentreTerm 2013 was Lily Brooks. Having spent a semester studying abroad and working at a Mexican hospital through the Centre-in-the-Yucatan program last year, Lily Brooks was eager to spend more time overseas. "I've always wanted to travel to Africa," Brooks says, "so when I found out I could participate in a medical internship in Ghana, I was very excited by the thought of it. Working at the hospital in Merida was a very good experience, so I thought the Ghana internship would be similar."

Her weeks in Ghana opened Brooks' eyes even more to the world of medicine, and her experiences there were transformative.

"It was challenging to be surrounded by a new culture that I didn't completely understand, but it was so rewarding to learn from the people," she says. "The internship showed me how much culture can impact medicine—though in some ways medicine is the same everywhere, it is also very different in other ways. I've been most surprised by the way that the doctors, nurses, and midwives manage to improvise and care for patients well with limited technology and supplies."

Brooks feels that the most rewarding aspect of the internship was building relationships with the nurses and her host family in Ghana. "They were able to teach us a lot and were very happy to do so," Brooks says. Helping deliver babies, she adds, was another exceptionally rewarding experience.

Stay tuned for more tales of international internships in China, Costa Rica, and Brazil.

Have comments, suggestions, or story ideas? E-mail elizabeth.trollinger@centre.edu with your feedback.

Centre College, founded in 1819, is a nationally ranked liberal arts college in Danville, Ky. Centre hosted its second Vice Presidential Debate on 10.11.12, and remains the smallest college in the smallest town ever to host a general election debate. For more, click here.

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