This summer I had the opportunity to study abroad for five weeks in Iringa, Tanzania. The program was a part of Penn State’s Global Health Minor and was the capstone event for the minor as a required fieldwork. Before going abroad I had to take courses in epidemiology, global health, geography, etc. to prepare for what I would be seeing in the field. The courses provided an amazing foundation in public health by teaching me about the social determinants of health, access to healthcare, medical ethics, and so much more.
I had the option to study in Tanzania, Senegal, or South Africa and I chose to study in Tanzania because the program provided a wide range of opportunities in public health and cultural immersion. I had the opportunity to visit various non-governmental organizations that dealt with issues from HIV/AIDS to water safety and sanitation. The program also had daily Swahili lessons to help with cultural immersion and understanding of the local people. Having the opportunity to study and live in Tanzania was life changing. I think that I view things much differently now and I realize how much I take for granted in my own life.
As an Immunology and Infectious Disease major, there is a huge emphasis on scientific understanding and thinking, but the Global Health Minor and the fieldwork experience have helped me broaden my horizons to think from a different perspective. As I mentioned earlier, I had to take various courses before I could go on the fieldwork and all of them related to my interest in public health and preventative medicine. While abroad, I was able to see real life scenarios of situations that I only read about in textbooks.
As a future healthcare provider I will be working with people from various backgrounds and it is important to understand where those people are coming from. By seeking opportunities to speak and learn from other people and cultures I know that I will continue to learn more to benefit my future patients. This experience greatly helped me appreciate different lifestyles and has adequately prepared me to keep learning from the world around me to be successful in the medical field.