by Joe Jamieson

Where Are They Now?

Melika travelled to Hue, Vietnam in 2019. Since then Melika has graduated from Cardiff University and is currently completing her pre-registration placement to become a qualified optometrist. 

We recently caught up with her to talk about how her overseas placement influenced the rest of her journey in optometry.

So Melika, what made you want to study optometry?

For me, it’s the fact that you can really make a difference in the quality of someone’s life. It also gives you the opportunity to have one-to-one interactions with a variety of patients from paediatrics, elderly patients and patients with low vision. 

I think it makes a huge difference that you can change the quality of someone’s life with a pair of glasses. But you can also diagnose and independently manage patients with different eye conditions. So while it does have a commercial side, it also has a healthcare perspective to it as well.

And it’s constantly evolving! It’s a very dynamic profession.

You studied at Cardiff University – what made you choose to study there?

The optometry faculty members at Cardiff University are some of the best in the UK.

I liked that they had a focus on confidentiality too. They provide a really comfortable environment for patients, all the staff and students as well. 


The faculty are very advanced in the techniques they use for the diagnosis of different eye conditions, as well as the teaching methods used. Their pass rate for the board exams is really high as well. It’s a really great school.

And can you talk a bit about your experience at Cardiff University? What were the highlights?

A highlight for me was the opportunity to see a variety of patients because the optometry department work with different sectors such as paediatrics, patients with special needs, and low vision patients. 

They also have their own specialised eye disease clinic, so I was able to see all sorts of different case studies which was really beneficial to my studies. 

They also offer a master's degree as well, so if you want to pursue further training and education you have the right path to do so at Cardiff.

So how did your overseas placement fit into all of that? When did you travel with us?

The optometry bachelor’s at Cardiff University is a three-year course and I decided to undertake an overseas placement during the summer of my second year.

What was it that made you want to go overseas on an experience like this?

I wanted to see different eye conditions and how they are diagnosed and managed differently in other countries and cultures. I was interested in observing the impact of resources on patient care. Here in the UK, we’re able to diagnose eye conditions early on because we provide information such as leaflets so the general population are more aware of eye conditions and the like, whereas in other countries they are not. 

In other countries and cultures, a patient may visit the clinic or hospital much later on when the eye condition or disease is much more advanced. I wanted the chance to be able to see these advanced conditions and diseases. 

I was also interested in seeing how healthcare services in other countries connect optometrists, ophthalmologists, and councillors and how they work together to improve the patient’s quality of life if their vision is poor.

One of the most magnificent and well preserved gateways in the protected by UNESCO old imperial city of Hue, Vietnam

My overseas placement was also really dynamic, and I knew that I’d be able to shadow in different clinics, from eye surgery to the trauma department. It was fantastic that I was able to see and experience a number of different departments in the hospital.

I was also excited to visit Vietnam for the culture and food. The scenery is beautiful, and I’d always wanted to go. It was very clean, everyone was very nice, and the food was amazing. 

Let’s jump right into the hospital placement – which departments did you spend your time in?

My two weeks were mostly spent in the Ophthalmology and Optometry department. I saw plenty of ocular pathologies and observed how these were managed. I was also able to observe lots of surgeries, such as glaucoma surgery and cataract surgery.

The hospital where my placement took place used a multi-disciplinary approach so I was able to observe opticians, optometrists, ophthalmologists and the residents all working together in one department.

I was also able to visit the Flying Eye Hospital which was in Hue at the time. Here I was able to see even more complex eye surgeries and attend some of the seminars and workshops. The Flying Eye Hospital flies ophthalmologists and optometrists from all over the world to volunteer their time in low- and middle-income countries where they conduct complex surgeries and share skills and techniques with medical teams. 

It was very cool. Before and after surgeries I was able to attend workshops and watch and learn so much!

And what was the day-to-day like in the hospital?

I had structure to my day and it was all very well organised by the Work the World team and my hospital supervisors, but I was also able to tell them my objectives and change this depending on what was happening in the hospital that day.

So I knew where I was going and what my day would look like, but I also had the chance of seeing different things. They said if I wanted to see a surgery instead of being in the A&E department one day, I was able to. It was very organised but I had the option to see other things if I wanted to or if there were surgeries happening. 

HUE DESTINATION PAGE - clinical images

The hospital teams were great at getting me involved, not with the surgeries of course, but by showing me what they were seeing, explaining how they use the equipment and teaching me about the lasers they used.

How do you think experiences like that changed your approach to your career?

When I had the opportunity to see more complex cases and eye diseases it made me want to focus more on managing patients and how to be a proactive member of a team wherever I  was working. 

I saw so many complex surgeries and conditions it made me want to further my studies to learn more about them, how to diagnose them faster, and how to manage them more independently.
So, what happened once you graduated? Are you still studying?

Since graduating I applied to enter my pre-registration placement training. This is so I can register with the UK’s General Optical Council. So now I’m in my pre-reg year completing supervised practice while working towards my board exams. 

So do you think your Work the World experience in Vietnam has contributed to what you’ve achieved so far?

Yes definitely. After my overseas placement, I was more clued up on the conditions I was studying because I had seen the conditions first-hand with my own eyes in Vietnam. And because the conditions I saw in Vietnam were more advanced it was helpful to have something to relate to the textbook or presentation. I was able to draw on my experience because I’d seen what they did after surgeries in Vietnam for example.

It was a completely different experience from my studies back in the UK, but I found I could get a lot from the experience by being proactive. I made sure to take notes and then when I returned home from my placement I was able to draw on the differences between how a certain condition I was studying would be managed in Vietnam and how we manage it here in the UK – it was very helpful.

It definitely complimented my studies back in the UK. 

So, what are your ambitions for the future?

I’m definitely looking at doing the Masters at Cardiff University to learn more about ocular pathologies and how to manage those. I would like to be able to work independently and hopefully in a hospital environment.


And lastly, do you have any words of encouragement for students thinking about undertaking an overseas placement?

You’re going to be in a very intellectual environment but it’s up to you to get the most out of it and be proactive while you’re taking in the beautiful scenery and the culture.

It is also important to remember that this is the best time to learn something that other students and colleagues may not have the chance to see and experience. So make sure you get the most out of it by being active and asking questions. But also have fun because everything in Vietnam is just so amazing. 

So, have fun, be active and you know, learn because not everyone will be able to see what you’re seeing.

Next Steps

Where to?

Want to experience a life-changing overseas placement like Malika's? Choose a destination to get started.

Search blog posts