Claire Bonneau - Medicine in Nepal
I am currently an undergraduate student studying Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta. As I am a pre-med student with no medical training, I was placed in the Chitwan Medical College (CMC) in the city of Bharatpur in Nepal.
My Adventure to Nepal
I have never travelled anywhere on my own, let alone across the entire globe. I had to take three flights – Calgary to Vancouver (1 hour), Vancouver to Guangzhou (13 hours) and Guangzhou to Kathmandu (5 hours).
I got incredibly nervous during my flights, resulting in me being sick for the entire flight to Guangzhou. By the time I arrived in Kathmandu, it was 2:30 in the morning. I had no food or water in my stomach, and I was absolutely terrified. Thankfully, the Projects Abroad staff picked me up from the airport and took me to my hotel without a problem.
After a day of sleeping and being sick in Kathmandu, I took a six-hour bus to Bharatpur - I will never forget this bus ride. They had a road wide enough for one lane of traffic being used as a two-way motorway, weaving through the mountains on dirt roads. My bus had a couple goats on the roof, just along for the ride. I felt very lost and alone, and I remember wanting to call my parents to beg them to let me come home. But am I ever glad I didn’t, because once in Bharatpur I had such an amazing time.
I was fortunate enough to stay in the home of Kamala and family. Kamala (or Ahma, which is mother in Nepali) and Baba (father in Nepali) were very kind to me, always asking about my day despite the slight language barrier. I had three house siblings, Rishma, Rushan, and Rupak, all of which were lovely and excited to hang out with me whenever they had time.
For the first week I had no roommate, so I spent a lot of time with the volunteer living in the house next door (the houses were so close!). I ended up getting a roommate a week into my placement, which was an amazing experience. She was from Norway and the two of us became very good friends.
My Medicine Placement
As I mentioned, my placement was in the Chitwan Medical College. Each week we were given the opportunity to change wards. In my four-week time at the hospital, I spent most of my time in the ER, maternity and operation wards. The Nepali hospitals are nothing like the hospitals we have here in Canada. For one, they have frequent power outages, which despite the hospitals best efforts to use backup generators for continuous power, still resulted in many vital machines turning off at any given time.
Despite the challenges, the hospital is well run, and I got to see many very interesting things. In ER I saw many RTA (Road Traffic Accident) victims, broken bones and unfortunately a couple of suicide cases. One day, a man came running into the ER with a bandage over his hand, as he had accidentally sliced off all four of his fingers using some farming equipment. Despite how gruesome some of the accidents were, it was amazing being able to see how all of the doctors reacted.
In Maternity, I saw a natural birth and got to hold and play with a four-day-old baby. As maternity is a bit of a slower ward, I got to know the nurses very well, all of which were very nice and social. Finally, my last week was in operations. I saw multiple C-section births, multiple gall bladder removals and various other smaller operations. It was the best week of my time in Nepal.
Though we were very busy during the week, all volunteers were allowed to travel the country over the weekends. This was the best way to make friends with the other volunteers and an amazing opportunity to learn about Nepal.
On my first weekend I went to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. This is an absolute must if you are in Nepal. The Maya Devi Temple was absolutely stunning and really captures the religion and culture of the Nepali people.
Finally, my last weekend was spent in Pokhara, where I went paragliding. Strapped into a harness with my guide, we ran off the edge of a mountain and glided around the valley for about fifteen minutes. The view was absolutely breath-taking.
Though my weekend trips make me seem like quite the adrenaline junkie – I can honestly say I am not. Being in such a beautiful country full of wonderful locals and volunteers really brought out the best version of me, and I used that energy to capture every moment I could.
Finally, when it was time for me to return to Canada, I was driven by Projects Abroad to the airport in Kathmandu. I took the same gruelling trip home but I made it safe and sound, ready to share my experience with my friends and family. I am so grateful for my time in Nepal, as it has shown me my passion for medicine, but also my interest in world cultures. Overall, Nepal is an excellent country with much to offer.