Wenxin Liu - Medicine in Tanzania
I am currently a university student from Michigan, United States. I wanted to do something impactful with the summer after my second year of study, but I wasn’t sure what until I stumbled across the Projects Abroad website.
I randomly read through a couple of country profiles, but when I clicked on the Tanzania country profile, I somehow knew I wanted to volunteer there. As a pre-medical student in the U.S. who’s very much interested in healthcare, volunteering in a healthcare capacity in Tanzania seemed like an obvious choice. Little did I know then how life changing the whole experience would be.
The support that Projects Abroad provided me throughout the whole trip was amazing. Before I left for Dar es Salaam, they helped me prepare for my trip, giving me information on obtaining visas, getting vaccinated, and preparing for culture shock. When my flight to Dar es Salaam became delayed by 24 hours, Projects Abroad was flexible and arranged for my airport pickup and orientation to be pushed back a day.
My arrival in Tanzania
When I finally arrived in Dar es Salaam, I was welcomed with open arms by my host family. I stayed in a guest bedroom with another medical volunteer from the UK, who helped ease my transition into my next two months. I quickly became close with my host family. We would watch TV together or I would help the children with their homework.
The city outside of my host family was overwhelming at first, but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate all that the largest city in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, had to offer. On my first full day in Tanzania, one of the Projects Abroad staff gave me a personal tour of the city. He showed me where the ATMs and shops were, and how to get around town. He then took me to the hospital where a doctor gave me a tour and introduced me to other doctors in the hospital.
My Medicine placement
I quickly learned that the volunteer experience is what you make of it. As a result, I tried to take initiative in getting to know the doctors at Mwanayamala Hospital and learning about Tanzanian culture and medicine in Tanzania.
As I grew to know the doctors, we’d go across the street for lunch during our break and they would tell me about their experiences growing up in Tanzania. In the hospital, over time, they’d also grow to trust me to be more hands-on with the patients instead of observing.
During my last week in Dar es Salaam, I wanted to explore the other placements Projects Abroad offered other than the medical placements. As a result, I talked to a staff member and they helped organise for me to visit a couple of the orphanages Projects Abroad partners with.
Projects Abroad’s incredible flexibility and willingness to work with the volunteer for a personalised volunteer experience allowed me to have a more comprehensive volunteer experience through which I was not only able to learn about medicine in Tanzania, but also about care and orphanages.
Outside of volunteering, Projects Abroad organises social events for volunteers every week. In this way, I was able to become close friends with many volunteers from all over the world. When I first arrived, they helped me become acquainted with the city, showing me Dar’s breath-taking beaches and quaint shopping areas.
Furthermore, we even found a painting shop where the shopkeeper taught us how to African knife paint. In addition, I’d always wanted to go on a safari, and Projects Abroad staff helped organise a safari trip for me and other volunteers which was a completely unforgettable experience.
Now, a year after my trip, I’m able to look back on my two months in Dar es Salaam and have perspective on the ways it has changed my life. My volunteer experience in Dar es Salaam through Projects Abroad helped me become comfortable with travelling abroad and helped me discover my passion for service and for public health. It has also helped me realise how much I love working with people and learning about other cultures, and has set the foundation for my pursuit of other similar activities.