Being my first time leaving the United States, I took a lot of time to research different programs that offered volunteering abroad. After emailing back and forth with a couple different groups, I finally decided to go with Projects Abroad to Nepal. From the very beginning Projects Abroad was so helpful and always got back to my emails no more than a day later. Since I am a pre-med student, I chose that program and worked at the Chitwan Medical Center. From the moment I got off the plane in Nepal, I felt the support of Projects Abroad. They picked me up from the airport, took me to the hotel, went over the project I would be working on and then showed me around Thamel. The next day I took a five-hour journey to Bharatpur to meet my host family. This is also where I met the Projects Abroad team that would help me during the rest of my stay in Nepal. They had both an international contact and Nepali contact so you would have two different people that you could talk to about any issues. My first day working at the hospital I was given a tour, by Binod, my Nepali contact, of all the different areas, such as gynecology, ophthalmology, the operating theatre, orthopedics, pediatrics and the emergency room. Binod then asked me where I wanted to start. I was so excited that I could choose anywhere I wanted to work and observe. I started in the emergency room and instantly saw the differences between the healthcare systems in the US and Nepal. One of my biggest worries before this trip was the fear of not making any friends while working, however while in the ER I met three other volunteers from Germany, England and Australia that I still keep in touch with. I was surprised at the flexibly and freedom the hospital gave me because each day I was allowed to pick anywhere I wanted to work. I explored the emergency room, dermatology and psychiatry departments before I decided to work in the operating theatre for the rest of my month in Nepal. Because I am only a pre-med student I mainly observed, but was given the chance to take vitals and open containers for nurses and doctors that were sterile in OT. Throughout working in OT I learned many different instruments and what they were used for and was able to observe numerous surgeries including a craniotomy, open reduction interal fixation, closed reductions, neck of femur fractures, hemi-arthroplasty, cesarean sections, total abdominal hysterectomy, laparoscopic cholesystectomy and many more! I learned and saw so much more then I ever thought I would! My typical shift at the hospital was 9-3, but sometimes I would cut out early with other volunteers to go to the market or get food. I still crave paneer chili from our favorite restaurant next to the hospital. On the weekends we explored other parts of Nepal. One of the Projects Abroad employees was so helpful when it came to these trips. He planned every aspect and just told us how much it would be. He even arranged all the taxi and bus rides to the different cities. My first weekend adventure was the white water rafting and the Chitwan National Park. Rafting was amazing, except the water was freezing! The national park was also a lot of fun just don’t go on a hot day! We got to go on a canoe ride, walk through the Nepali jungle to see wildlife, bathe with the elephants and go on an elephant ride. For the next weekend/week five of us volunteers went trekking in the Himalayas. What an experience! We spent the weekend in Pokhara buying gear and left for the trudge on Monday morning. I wasn’t planning on trekking when I first came to Nepal, but the other volunteers talked me into going, and I had no idea what I was in for! To get to the Annapurna Base Camp, it was seven days of walking up and down steps for an average of eight hours a day. It was total torture walking up, but when you looked around at the views it was incredible. It was and still is by far my greatest physical accomplishment and was definitely worth the pain! When I got back to Bharatpur I only had one week left at the hospital and during this time I was given the opportunity to travel to a rural health camp. I was leaving on Monday so for the last weekend I stayed in Kathmandu. Projects Abroad paid for two nights at their base hotel here and also reimbursed me 100 rupees for everyday I worked at the hospital. I loved this because I had extra money to spend on souvenirs! I tried to visit as many landmarks as I could during my last three days and went to Pashupatinath Temple, Bodnath, Swayambhunath, Durbar Square and did some more shopping in Thamel. When it was time for me to go to the airport, Projects Abroad, once again, arranged a taxi for me. I was so impressed with this program and all the in country support they provided. I was really scared to travel alone for my first time to a third world country, but Projects Abroad and all their staff made me feel so comfortable! Through them, I not only learned so much at the hospital, but was able to be adventurous and explore all of Nepal. I would definitely recommend Projects Abroad to anyone wanting to volunteer, especially those that are nervous for their first time!
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Established in 1992, Projects Abroad is the world’s leading short-term international volunteer organization. Over 8,000 people a year join our programs in over 25 amazing countries around the world. All participants receive unparalleled in-country support from our full-time, professional staff to ensure that the experience is safe, worthwhile, and fun.
The hospital I volunteered in gave me many opportunities to work and gain some medical experience. At first, I was timid and didn't put myself out there to doctors and nurses, causing me to not have much work to do. Then, I realized that if I just asked questions, offered to help, and kept busy, the hospital staff was happy to help and teach me. I learned how and was allowed to draw blood, test for sickle cell disease, take blood pressure, change surgical bandages, set up operation theaters, observe surgeries, and even scrub in/assist on a surgery! I gained so much knowledge about medicine and became excited about becoming a doctor again!
At outreach, I helped bandage injured children and educate them about Malaria and hygiene so that they could lead healthier lives. Throughout the rest of my trip, I made many new friends, both local and from many parts of the world. I was immersed in a rich culture of music, family, religion, food, and friendliness that is unparalleled in the US. While walking down the street, riding in a taxi, or shopping on the side of the road, people would stop me just to have a conversation. Most of them just wanted to welcome me to Ghana, teach me some of the local language (Twi), and teach me about their culture. I never felt alone with so many friendly faces around and always knew that if I needed any help, I could ask anyone around me!
Projects Abroad provided me with support from the moment I first contacted them about joining the program until the time I arrived back home. They ensured that all of my documents were in order, travel arranged, and stay organized/fun/educational! I would recommend this program to ANYONE seeking a stress-free medical internship, cultural experience, or a combination of the two!
I think about Morocco ALL the time. I miss it so much! I had such an incredible time in Morocco - an experience that definitely would not have been made possible without Projects Abroad. Although I could have traveled to Morocco by myself, there are so many dimensions of my experience that would have been lost. Indeed, it is a bit pricy. However, through going with an organization, my experience felt very authentic, rather than “any other tourist trip.” I felt so immersed in the culture, which is why I think Morocco has resonated so much with me. With Projects Abroad, I had the opportunity to live with a wonderful Moroccan family for three months, work with dozens of Moroccan children, and meet passionate and enthusiastic volunteers.
It was my first time traveling alone, which was slightly daunting. However, I was also very confident when I left for my adventure! I had been communicating with the Projects Abroad team for months. Their thorough and caring responses ensured me that I was in good hands - and I was. Upon arriving at the airport, I was greeted warmly by Adil - a Projects Abroad Morocco Coordinator - who enthusiastically told me about my placement (even though he’d been up since 4am to pick me up!). The Projects Abroad staff all proved to be extremely passionate and caring individuals with a genuine love and enthusiasm for their job. I always felt very safe and I knew I was in good hands; the staff stressed that they were only a phone call away, no matter the time or the concern!
Additionally, the structure of the program is very intelligent, allowing a good balance of volunteering and traveling; meeting travelers and locals. At the end of my experience, I felt very fulfilled; I had seen and experienced way more than I could have even anticipated! I would do everything again, in a heart beat!
My sister is currently planning a trip with Projects Abroad Mongolia. Needless to say, I’m incredibly envious!
I went to volunteer abroad with Projects Abroad last year, I planned to leave Canada in February, and return in April. Right as I stepped out of the airport the Projects Abroad Costa Rica were there to greet me! Since I was participating in a conservation project at Barra Honda Nacional Parque, I had to spend one night in San Jose, then in the morning catch a bus to Nicoya. The staff took me to my hotel, provided my transportation in the morning, and everything was so easy despite having no Spanish skills beyond the basic 'Hi, my name is......' and 'How are you? I am good.'
I got to live in the park I was volunteering in, every morning I would wake up to the sound of nature; howler monkeys, birds, no sounds of vehicles! I loved it! I really wanted to learn more Spanish while I was there so the Projects Abroad staff in the National Park volunteered to give me lessons, for an hour I would be taught Spanish, then for an hour we would switch and I would teach English. My time to leave came quickly, it felt like I had only been there for a week and I made so many friends it felt like a new family. Sooo I extended my time. The staff made it easy, all I had to do was make a phone call.
I would recommend going to Costa Rica with Projects Abroad to anybody, the people I met I still keep in contact with. I worked with others my own age of 18 up to people in their early sixties! I learned so much about the culture, nature, and I can have conversations in Spanish. After researching a lot of other volunteer companies I ended up choosing Projects Abroad because the price was great for everything that is supplied and I was quite happy that I intend on volunteering with Projects Abroad again.
My time spent in Guadalajara, Mexico was a very rewarding experience. I traveled through Projects Abroad which arranged everything for me, from Hotel pickup, to housing, to a city tour. In addition, staff was always available to help organize weekend trips we volunteers may be interested in. I arrived in Mexico in the middle of March 2013 and stayed in Guadalajara on dental assignment for five weeks. My first two weeks were spent working alongside a private practice dentist. A typical day in the private practice entailed a 30 minute bus ride in the morning to the clinic, followed by an intensive 4 hour Spanish medical terminology and anatomy review. The review was interspersed with patient visits, which permitted opportunity to observe. At 2 PM or so, I would head home for lunch. Following lunch I would study dental articles and magazines to further my knowledge of the vocabulary and procedures. This required a lot of self motivating, especially after a big meal, but was my efforts quickly proved worthwhile. After my first two weeks I headed north for a long weekend in Mazatlan. I quickly made Mexican friends and was invited to stay in a friend's home not far from the beach. My time in Mazatlan was awesome. The weather was perfect, the beaches were packed and the festivities were abundant. It was impressive. The younger party goers would line the street the runs parallel to the beach and dance til sunrise. It was a beautiful sight. And, I had the opportunity to learn a dance native to Mexico. Upon my return to Guadalajara, I began working in a free hospital clinic. For me, this was much more fun. As previously addressed, the first two weeks required a lot of studying. The last two were a reward for all the hard work I had put in. The hospital clinic had 5 chairs with five to eight doctors (some of which were students). One chair was mostly dedicated to oral surgery. The others were for routine visits. The variety of cases I had the opportunity to observe was awesome. I also had the opportunity to assist on multiple oral surgeries. There was no typical day at the hospital, but this made it more enjoyable. There was, however, typically at least one oral surgery for me to observe or assist. While in the clinic, I learned to develop and interpret x-rays. I typically spent between 4 and 5 hours at the clinic, all before lunch. The clinic was a lot of fun, but it was definitely more enjoyable because of my two week introduction to medical terminology and Mexican Spanish in general in the private practice. My fifth and final week, my parents came to visit. We traveled to Puerto Vallarta, an exotic beach destination, for 3 nights, took the Jose Cuervo Tequila Express Tour (highly recommend) and toured the city of Guadalajara. My time in Guadalajara had the potential to be a truly tremendous, life altering experience. I simply needed more time there. I speak of its potential in this manner because I spent 5 months abroad in Spain as an undergraduate student and I can attest to the power of a trip of this length. A five-month period is long enough to significantly impact you as a person. Five weeks, on the other hand, permits you to make many acquaintances, one or two good friends, and an improved ability to communicate in the foreign language. My advice, wherever you travel, stay twice as long as I did. Cheers and good luck.
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