In all honesty, travelling to Peru has been a personal dream of mine for a long time. When the Society of Radiographers competition came around and I saw Peru as the destination I’d be visiting if I won, that immediately piqued my interest. The reason I’ve wanted to do it for such a long time is because as well as being a radiographer, I’m interested in archaeology and ancient history, and I’ve always been fascinated by ancient South American peoples, so the Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs.
I was collected from the airport by one of the Work the World team, and we travelled together straight back to the house. Because I arrived in the middle of the night, I went straight to bed when I got there. When I woke up, I had breakfast and met all my housemates who I’d be living with for the rest of my time in Peru. Some of us were due to start Work the World’s Intensive Spanish Course that morning, so we all hopped into a taxi and travelled to the school together with a member of Work the World staff.
We only did a half-day of the Intensive Spanish Course on the first day, as we were to have a city orientation around Arequipa. We ate a nice Peruvian for lunch, and we were then taken to buy local phones, or sim cards if we already had a phone with us. This was really useful, as we’d need to communicate locally with one another and with the Work the World staff.
My first impression of Arequipa was that it was a very beautiful city. It was obvious right away that the city was cultured—there was a mix of historical and colonial architecture, but also all the modern conveniences like Starbucks. The weather was fantastic everyday, which helped.
In terms of the clinical experience, my days were always busy. I was X Raying patients, processing films, and I felt like I was a valued member of the team. There are some differences, day-to-day that made the experience all the more fascinating. Certain techniques were different, for example the staff would use shorter distances, and because they were using film the exposures weren’t as high. This was because the equipment was more dated, as opposed to using something like a CR cassette.
One thing I learned quite quickly was that local staff battled against a lack of resources to do the best they could under the circumstances. They didn’t have all the modern equipment that makes life as a radiographer in the UK that much easier. There was no CT scanner, and when I opened up conversation about funding, they noted that it was quite limited.
The whole trip made me really appreciative my healthcare system back home. The people of Peru have to pay for almost everything care-related. There was one day where some oncologists came to the Work the World house and gave us a broad overview of the Peruvian healthcare system. It was surprisingly complex. Some people meeting certain criteria had some limited access to free care, but the barriers were strict. There’s another strata where patients pay towards their care, but the rest is subsidised, and of course there’s private care. One of the knock-on effects of having to pay for treatment was that patients would leave getting checked for much longer, therefore presenting very late with conditions that if they’d been caught earlier, would have been cheaper and easier to treat.
I went to Colca Canyon on the first weekend I was there. We walked down into the canyon itself and then stayed at an oasis-like hotel, swimming in the pool when we got the chance. The next morning, we climbed up a nearby mountain and ate some local food when we got to the top. It was a great weekend.
The following weekend I went to Cusco, spending the day in the city. The following day we went to Machu Picchu, then an amazing hike up to rainbow mountain, and then home.
I also travelled to Ica and Huacacina, where I went dune buggying and sandboarding in the desert. While staying in Huacacina, I took a local bus to Nazca, where I took a flight over the Nazca lines themselves, which were more impressive than I’d have imagined from the air. I also visited some ancient Incan burial grounds while I was over there as well.
there are people staying in the house who’ve been there longer than you who already have a knowledge of what to do and where to go. There’s something quite special about this knowledge as it’s an oral tradition, normally passed down by previous students, who inherited it by the students who were there before them.
Everything was so easy to organise as well. The staff in the house are really helpful, and you’ll find when you arrive that there are people staying in the house who’ve been there longer than you who already have a knowledge of what to do and where to go. There’s something quite special about this knowledge as it’s an oral tradition, normally passed down by previous students, who inherited it by the students who were there before them.
Speaking about knowledge and advice, the staff in the house were there for anything and everything. They were there for us no matter what whenever we needed.
Living in the house was like being in a little family. Everyone got along really well. There were about 25 of us in the house at any one time and we’d all go out together and do things. One day, all of us bundled into transportation and went whitewater rafting together, which was a nice bonding experience.
One interesting thing to note was that I was the only radiographer in the house. There were doctors, nurses, physios, midwives and so on. It was really interesting to live with people from different disciplines, because we all had different experience and different views on healthcare. We’d all sit around after placement and discuss what we’d seen that day, how things differed to what we were learning at home and things like that. It was nice to be with people who were from different countries as well. There was an international feel to the house, too—finding out about the healthcare systems in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and America was fascinating as they all differed from one another.
The food in the house was great, the chef cooked us some amazing meals each day — both Peruvian specialities and more familiar western dishes.
The people of Peru are so wonderful and nice and helpful and happy in their day-to-day lives even though many of them don’t have as much as we do in the UK. They’re an incredibly proud nation as well—the Peruvian flag was everywhere, on the roofs of houses, hanging from balconies, and on buses.
I just also wanted to say thanks to Work the World for giving me with the best experience of my life so far. I’ve got things in my memory forever and met some of the most lovely people I’ve ever met. Everyone looked after me so well while I was over there, so thanks Work the World for being such a great organisation.