Work the World (WTW) offers to help you serve your overseas electives in the developing world. While other organisations do exist which offer such assistance and students can organise these activities themselves, the unique package ranging from logistical support and assistance in integrating into the local culture by the organisers to the opportunity to work and bond with other students from around the world on a 24/7 basis when overseas makes the entire experience worth it, something I found when I did mine in Pokhara, Nepal through WTW.
The liaison officer from WTW will contact you within a week after your initial application.
What surprised me during the contact was the level of attention the staff paid to the learning objectives I declared in my application, as they try as much as possible to arrange the setup on the ground to meet the learning objectives established by the students to ensure that the former are met.
This form of positive communication between the staff and students is a definite benefit as you prepare to go, as you are continually updated on the situation on the ground through the ‘My Trip’ page online so you can prepare accordingly.
To help ease you into the environment, a member of staff from WTW (usually the programme manager or assistant programme manager) will meet you at your point of entry, be it through the airport, bus park, etc, based on the details of your arrival furnished on ‘My Trip’. To help stand out from the traffic going in and out of the area, they will be in the blue WTW t-shirt. As I discovered, it is much easier for them to identify you if you are wearing the t-shirt as well, something which I did not consider which led to an interesting hour wandering about Pokhara in my attempt to find them instead.
A definite benefit of working with WTW was the gaining of the experience of the local staff. From the initial orientation of the city to the introduction of the layout of the hospitals, they will highlight the points of interest relevant to foreigners as well as locals, helping to explain the local cultures and norms and helping students to fit into the environment. They were a literal goldmine of information when we wanted to know more about activities to do during the weekend, helping us arrange transportation and pointing out the best locations to go to. A particular example was when we wanted to work with a local orphanage, one which receives less aid from foreigners so that we knew that our contribution would be needed. As none of the previous team members had made such a request, the assistant manager spent a week visiting the various orphanages in Pokhara during her free time and interviewing the staff there until she found one which met our request, the Destitute Children’s Home, liaising between us and the orphanage staff so we could coordinate a programme of weekly activities with the children. Hence, do not be afraid to ask for assistance in arranging any activities, as the staff are always ready to help.
The WTW house
One thing is for sure, you’ll never be bored. Given the diversity of students working through WTW, you will find yourself spending your time with Canadians, Australians, Kiwis and the odd Brit.
An interesting dynamic we had was that given the transient nature of the occupancy, with individuals staying from 2 weeks to 7, we decided to make each day together count, trying to conduct bonding activities whenever possible. Everything from weekend adventures to Vodka Mondays, if it offered us a chance to have fun together, we did it. We also never hesitated to support each other as well, given the hectic and possibly disturbing experiences some had over their course of work in the wards. If you ever have a tough day in the wards, don’t be afraid to share with the others as the odds are that most of the others had as well and won’t hesitate to support you all the way through.
Another benefit of working with WTW is that you gain the benefit of free language classes, so that you will be able to speak and understand a little of the local language so that you will not be reliant fully on a translator all the time. The language instructor contracted to WTW taught using the Roman alphabet with pronunciation modelled against English phonology, so everyone was able to understand and employ the language, interacting with people and patients and staff. In addition, the instructor ensured that lessons always relevant and content fresh, no matter whether it was our 1st or 12th lesson. Hence, while it is tempting to miss the lessons sometimes, I would highly recommend attending them as the benefits you get in using the language confidently help loads when interacting with people, particularly when working in the villages so you won’t be reliant on a translator all the time.
On your first day in a new ward, the programme manager will strive to ensure that you get to meet the head of the department. While it might be a daunting meeting, it ensures that you get to be introduced to the staff, explaining your objectives to ensure that you get what you came for. A positive attitude towards learning and being proactive will help loads. In addition, you will often have the opportunity to work with the other WTW students, allowing buddy learning. I was often partnered in surgery with a Canadian medical student, so we exchanged information of methodologies and techniques from wound dressing options to fluid replacement therapies.
The benefits you gain when working with WTW include the ability to network with peers around the world, language acquisition at a rate suitable for all and the ability to enjoy an elective experience safely. We agreed that the overall experience through WTW was entirely worth it and you will too.
Written by George Glass, nursing student at the University of Edinburgh