It goes without saying that all healthcare students need to experience a health system a world away from their own, so that’s exactly what I did. For eight weeks, my fellow medical student, Maddy, and myself travelled to Iloilo, the Philippines. While there we not only became involved in the Filipino hospital system, but also became totally immersed in local culture as well.
We spent our weekdays at the hospital where we rotated through a number of departments. Although the medical theory aspects were similar to those in Australia, it was invaluably fascinating to see the massive influence culture plays on healthcare delivery. The local medical students took us under their wings and strived daily to present us with intriguing cases that we simply would never have seen in our own country. Where resources were limited and where religion played a massive role in women’s rights when it comes to reproductive health, our associates never failed to provide the best healthcare they could. This notion not only opened my eyes as a future health professional, but it also opened my heart.
We spent one week of our trip on a tropical island where we stayed with an indigenous family. While there we worked in the Emergency Department of the island’s only hospital. This was immersion within immersion – only an island away, it felt like we were in a totally different world! The family introduced us to their traditional way of life – we lived without running water and learned the practices of herbal medicine and traditional dancing. It took my breath away to see how little these people have, yet how truly happy and full of love they remain. Our host family treated us as they would their own and welcomed us into a community we will remain fond of for the rest of our lives.
As well as learning phrases in our fellow housemates’ native languages, we also received language lessons in Filipino.
We stayed at the ever-lively Work The World (WTW) house with a diverse range of students from all over the world. As well as learning phrases in our fellow housemates’ native languages, we also received language lessons in Filipino. The entire WTW staff were incredibly helpful, including those based in England, and those at our house in Iloilo. After eight weeks, you can imagine how close we all became. Each day we were greeted with smiles and treated with amazing dishes from the chefs. Thursday evenings were always a massive feast with karaoke and laughs all night long.
Weekends were spent exploring many of the thousands of islands that this beautiful archipelago has to offer. We were fortunate enough to be in a location that contrasts both white, picturesque beaches against vibrant, mountainside waterfalls. We enjoyed parasailing, zip lining, eating dessert, testing our cardio with hiking only to be rewarded with waterfalls leaving us in awe, more dessert, snorkelling, water rafting, cliff jumping, lagoons… Did I mention dessert? Filipinos love dessert! We did everything and more.
It has been quite challenging to condense an eight-week, unbelievably life-changing cultural experience into a mere page of words. WTW has provided me with a phenomenal medical and cultural experience that I will remember for the rest of my life (cliché, but so true). It was so Philippin’ amazing! My advice? Get out there and do it!