Rebecca Claire Kazen - Medicine in Argentina High School Specials
The two weeks I spent in Argentina with Projects Abroad defined the summer after my senior year of high school. I wanted to volunteer with Projects Abroad’s Medicine project because I wanted to experience healthcare from a different perspective and expand my comfort zone. I had always been in medicine, but I wanted to have a more hands-on experience before leaving for college and picking a degree.
Before going on the trip, I had no idea what I was in for and I was terrified to travel to another continent on my own. However, Projects Abroad made my travel experience and stay in Cordoba absolutely amazing. I had an amazing time experiencing not only the healthcare and medical system in Argentina, but also the vibrant culture. I will always treasure the memories and relationships I made in Cordoba.
Volunteering in Argentina
Months before my trip, Projects Abroad made sure I knew everything I needed to know before travelling to a foreign country. I had plenty of time to prepare and I was even able to meet up with one of the girls in my group in a US airport before flying abroad together. Once I got to Cordoba, I was welcomed by the staff and by my host family. I loved exploring the culture of Argentina and trying as many new types of food as I could. Much to my surprise, learning how to tango was one of my favourite experiences. I was able to build many new relationships with the people in my group and my host family.
To this day, I keep in touch with many of the girls in my group that live around the world. During my stay in Cordoba, I lived with another girl from my group in a beautiful house by a huge park. My host mom made the most delicious dinners and would sometimes take us out to get ice-cream down the road. Although my host family did not speak a lot of English and I did not speak a lot of Spanish, I loved eating meals with them and spending time at home in the evenings.
My Medicine project
During the week, my group would travel around the city and volunteer at different hospitals and clinics. Sometimes we would go out of the city and travel to a regional hospital by bus. Even if the doctors did not speak English, they were always very friendly and very willing to help you understand the procedures. I learned more about medicine in the two weeks I lived in Cordoba than I could have ever imagined; most of the time we were in the room with the doctor while he saw patients. I liked listening to their conversations because I feel like it helped with my Spanish vocabulary.
My favourite days were the days when I was allowed to watch surgery close up. I saw many surgeries including brain surgery, tumour removal and even part of a long open heart surgery. The surgeons almost always offered to explain what they were doing and encouraged all of the students to have a closer look. It was amazing to be so close to such intricate procedures.
The days that we didn’t volunteer at the hospital were just as interesting. One day I went to a research facility outside of the city that was studying vector-borne illnesses. The facility was in an abandoned hospital filled with thousands of samples of the insects that were being studied. I thought it was interesting to learn about how the epidemiology of diseases in Argentina was different from the United States. There are many diseases that are not found at all in the United States that were widespread in Argentina and vice versa.
Another day, I was able to spend time at a veterinary clinic in Cordoba. I got to watch and assist with the neuter and spay of a few dogs. I’ve owned pets my entire life so it was fascinating to watch the procedures at the clinic.
Fond memories of volunteering
One of my favourite memories from the trip was going to an anatomy museum. There were thousands of perfectly preserved body parts lining the walls of the museum and we were even allowed to view a cadaver the museum was working on.
Another one of my favourite experiences was traveling to a local school to teach young children about brushing their teeth. We brought giant toothbrushes and teeth and handed out worksheets and toothpaste to the kids. We taught them about which foods were good for their teeth, which foods weren't so good, and how to brush their teeth well. The kids were very enthusiastic and ready to learn about how to take care of their teeth. After we finished teaching them, they asked us questions about where we were from and how we liked Cordoba. It was extremely rewarding to teach children and have such a wonderful response. I loved being able to go out into the local community and make an impact on these children and their families.
Travelling to Argentina with Projects Abroad was a wonderful experience. The time I spent in Cordoba changed my perspective of medicine and the different communities medical professionals serve daily. It was important to me to be able to interact with people and I want to be able to directly impact people’s lives in the medical field in the future. Spending time abroad expanded my comfort zone and made me realise how I could positively affect those around me through volunteer work.