I initially heard of Work the World through both my uni and through friends at other unis who had been on trips with them. My uni actually stopped doing electives for my year, so I just had a look at the Work the World website and went from there.
I’d been on placements in the UK, so I knew I wanted to go abroad. I read lots of reviews online and thought I’d give it a go.
My friends went travelling to Vietnam the year before and they raved about it. When I saw Hue on the Work the World website I thought it would be a great way to get some clinical experience and do a bit of traveling on the side.
When I arrived in Hue, there was a member of the Work the World team there waiting to meet me. We took a taxi together and went on a little detour so I could get a feel for the city before driving to the house.
I felt nervous, but I was fine once I met the students who were already in the house. Most of them had travelled to Vietnam on their own, but some already knew each other.
The Work the World team introduced me to the other students in the house and we all sat down for a chat. They told us all about what it was like in Hue, what they’d seen, where they’d been and things like that. I settled in really easily.
I was in a room with two other girls who knew each other, but they arrived on the same day as me. It was nice for the three of us to go through the first day together, all in the same situation.
The house was huge. When we first walked into the grounds, we saw that there was a guard at the gate and an office outside where Work the World team were. The team were always around if we had any concerns or questions. Walking into the house we saw three big living room areas, four bedrooms and a pool around the back! We swam in it all the time after our shifts at the hospital.
It was a really nice house and I couldn’t fault it.
On Monday and Tuesday evenings, we had language lessons in the house. We came back after shifts and had the lessons with everyone together. It was great to learn some Vietnamese so we didn’t have to go out into the country worrying about not being able to speak to anyone.
On Wednesdays, we had cooking lessons with the Work the World catering team (they cooked all our meals). They taught us how to make spring rolls and this special leaf-wrapped meat dish.
On Thursdays, the Work the World team hosted BBQ Night, which was a highlight.
One good thing was that while they were fun, all of these things were optional. If we wanted to do something else, of course we could.
I was the only radiographer in the house, so it was interesting to talk to nursing, medicine and midwifery students to hear what the hospital was like from their point of view. It gave me a feel for what other departments were like even though I hadn’t experienced them for myself.
We came back after placement every day and chatted about our experiences. We shared stories about interesting things we’d seen or talk about what the differences were between Vietnam and our home countries.
When it came to the hospital experience, one of the major differences was that they print CT, MRI and X-ray images onto film. At home we do that digitally.
Another major difference was that it was so much busier than hospitals at home. Local staff would get patients in, get them seen and get them out as quickly as possible.
The way staff interacted with patients was different as well. They didn’t talk to patients as much as we did at home and didn’t spend as much time with them.
I saw one examination where the radiographers injected contrast into a uterus to see why the patient was infertile. They did it under X-ray, and the doctors, radiographers and nurses all came into the room. They injected the contrast into the patient and then everyone came running behind the screen as they took pictures of the contrast going into the uterus. I’d never seen that before.
I also saw a double uterus which I’d never seen.
In another case, the staff injected contrast into a patient’s biliary tract through the ribs. The patient came in with a tube in between his ribs and they injected contrast straight in under X-ray, where at home we would do this under CT.
There were a lot of TB cases too. Patients came in with a cough only to find out that they had something worse than they thought. Patients presented with very late-stage cancers too. Patients came in with massive lung tumours, or tumours of the brain.
Actually, a lot of people came into the hospital not realising what was wrong as no one had picked it up sooner. This might have been because they used a lot of home remedies and traditional medicine as part of local culture. Traditional medicine was more popular there to the point that more people opted for traditional medicine than those who went to see their equivalent of a GP. They believed that the more natural remedies were going to benefit them more.
Hue and beyond...
The perfume river ran through the middle of the city, and then sprawling from it were shops, pagodas, Buddhist temples…
There was a strip in town with loads of bars and pubs. We went there for birthdays and we’d go there on the weekends too. It was great there because there were loads of other people travelling through Southeast Asia. We got to meet people from all over the world.
In the afternoons and evenings, we went to loads of local cafes and restaurants that the Work the World team recommended. We did a lot of wandering around too, getting a feel for the city itself.
We went to Hoi An one weekend and did things like stand up paddle boarding, went on a sunset cruise and we did the Hai Van pass on the way back to Hue.
Travelling by myself was a lot less difficult than I thought it would be. Having other people in the house made it much easier. I was worried that I would be on my own the whole time, but because there were so many people in the house that wasn’t a problem. Someone was always up for doing something, and we all planned to do things together.
I had an amazing time!