by Work the World

Every week we send a key question about placements, destination or Work the World houses to the staff teams in each destination. They then ask the students currently on placement for their thoughts. It’s a great way for students to hear firsthand stories and read current feedback about their destination, as well as providing a good comparison for those still unsure of which Work the World programme to choose.

Preparing for an overseas placement might be a little daunting and you will probably find yourself trying to imagine what it will be like. You might wonder if you will see similarities between the environments you’re used to and the ones you’re going to. What will the noises, smells, sounds and people be like? This week we asked the students in the Work the World houses “is your placement what you expected or full of surprises?”

Dannika Buckley who is doing her medical placement at a paediatric hospital in Mendoza, Argentina said, “The biggest surprise is that they use a lot of similar charts to those used in England. I have also been surprised at how willing the doctors are to teach me.” Well it is often commented on that the staff our students work with in Argentina are incredibly warm and friendly!

In Tanzania the students gave lots of feedback and said going on placement is a bit of a shock and that a lack of resources is the biggest difference they’ve encountered. Nursing student Melanie says that so far her elective has been “full of surprises!

Although I knew it would be very different, nothing prepares you for actually seeing it.”


Canadian medical students Stephanie and Marie give us an insight into their experience so far in a large district hospital in Arusha:

“My placement is better than I expected! The accommodation and the Work the world staff are excellent. Working at the district hospital has been a very interesting experience with lots of exposure to tropical medicine. I am able to work in different departments and the staff are all very friendly. All of the patient speak Swahili, making communication difficult at times, but most of the doctors help to translate.”

Marie said “My placement has been full of pleasant surprises. The level of care at the district hospital is more thorough than I was anticipating. Supplies are extremely limited but staffs are able to do a lot with very little. Everyone at the hospital has been friendly and willing to teach us about diseases/illnesses that we don’t often see at home.”

In Ghana when the question was posed, students couldn’t say they had a specific expectation of what the placement was going to be like. They all expected it to be quite different from the UK though and it was a big “yes” from all when asked if it was full of surprises! There are some elements that they did not expect - mostly cultural differences and a different approach with care procedures and treatments. Angiy remembered how one nurse shouted at a patient to keep quiet on the orthopaedic ward for expressing his pains!

Though nursing student Amy did not expect the two systems to be the same, she admitted the emotions experienced throughout the placement had been a surprise, especially when treatment is different to that which she had expected. Emergencies are treated very differently and she cited a case of a little boy who was brought to the paediatric ward with bronchitis. Though the doctors appeared to know everything about its management, the nurses didn’t appear to have as much of an understanding of the illness. Some emergency steps, which in the UK would have been taken, were ignored.

Amy concluded “I suppose it is the emotion of being in a situation like this that brings out the shock and’s so wrong that some people in the world have so much while others lack the basics.”

Rachel a student nurse said that most things were handled in a similar way to the UK but resources and facilities lack massively in comparison. The students appreciated the improvisation of the staff, for example the use of gauze rather than bandages for wounds.

On placement at a teaching hospital in Pokhara, Nepal medical student Laura felt she was well prepared for her elective by Work the World staff. Speaking to other students who had been to Nepal with Work the World previously also helped her get a good insight into the experience. Another medical student Alex also found his placement to be as expected and the hospital was as well equipped as he imagined it to be. On a final note from Pokhara, Georgia Wright found the accommodation, food and place was nicer than she expected (that’ll be our lovely Work the World houses and wonderful caterers!) only mentioning that resources are limited in hospital, which was expected.

So it seems that overall a lack of resources in our African destinations is the biggest shock for students, with most feeling pretty well prepared for their time overseas. We always encourage students to read the case studies on our website and talk to previous Work the World students to get a feel for the destinations, environments they will be working in and what day to day life at the hospitals might be like. Of course, the best way to find out what an overseas elective is really like is to experience it yourself!

Search blog posts