I decided to book my elective through Work The World because the alternative plans I had made were a bit wobbly and I wanted to be sure that things went smoothly and that I would have the best experience possible – I am so glad I did because that is exactly what happened!
When I first approached Work The World about doing my elective with them, I was greeted warmly by the staff at the Brighton office whenever I phoned, and given lots of advice about how to choose where to go and what placements I could do once I was there. In the end I decided to do 4 weeks in Mwanza, Tanzania, on the shores of Lake Victoria, with 2 weeks of Paediatrics and 2 weeks of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Once I had confirmed my trip, I had access to a whole wealth of information on the WTW website, including details of the placement, the house, the staff and about Mwanza and the surrounding area. The WTW were at the end of the phone to answer any questions I had and even helped me to plan some travelling after my placement. One of the main benefits of going through a company like WTW is that you have the added security of people who know the country where you are going and can help to sort all of the formalities such as working visas and resident permits. These could have been really tricky to sort on my own, but with WTW all I needed to do was supply them with some photos and the rest was done for me.
When I arrived in Mwanza I was knackered and, if I am honest, pretty anxious about being in a foreign country and being on my own! But as soon as I stepped out of the airport I was greeted by James, the house manager, who swept me up and took me off to the house – answering my (many) questions along the way. I was given a tour of the house and introduced to everyone before being given an hour or two to catch my breath and get my bearings! The house was great and had everything I needed. Later on in the day I was introduced to Diana, the cook, who’s suppers were amazing (particularly the Tilapia!) and to Bosco, the housekeeper. They became great friends over the month that I was there, and even came out drinking with us from time to time!
One of the main things I had been worried about was going out there on my own but everyone else in the house was lovely and some of the people I met there have become wonderful friends. There were several other people who had travelled there alone, whilst others had gone in groups of 2 or 3 but, however many there are of you thinking of going, you will have a great time! There are lots of things to do at the weekend, including trips to an island in Lake Victoria, safaris in the Serengeti and, a personal favourite, sunbathing and swimming at a luxury hotel on the lake!
On the first day of placement, I was driven there by James so that he could introduce me to the doctors I would be working with, and this took all of the anxiety out of the day. I got stuck in straight away with a ward round and clinics and, over the course of 2 weeks, was given loads of opportunities to get involved with procedures such as lumbar punctures and arterial blood gases. I even delivered a baby whilst there – an unforgettable experience! You need to be proactive if there are certain things that you want to get involved with as it is a very busy hospital but, if you ask, there will be someone who is happy to talk you through the procedure.
In the evenings there are Swahili lessons or free time to hang out with everyone else. BBQ nights are one of the highlights of the week where everyone gets together with some great food and a few glasses of Konyagi!
After I had finished my placement I decided to do a couple of weeks travelling; with the Serengeti so close it would have been criminal not to go on safari! Tanzania is a fantastically beautiful and friendly country and I cannot wait to return.
Overall, what you can expect from a WTW placement is a relaxed but professional staff who make sure your elective runs smoothly. They help to organise all of the fiddly details, leaving you free to get excited about the trip itself. Their expertise in country is phenomenal and helps you to make the most of your time in whatever country you decide to go to. The placements offer you a chance to get hands on experience in a different healthcare system, boosting your confidence and widening your horizons. It is a secure, safe way to organise an unforgettable elective.
Written by Catherine Napper, medical student at the University of Southampton