When it came to taking my medical elective overseas, I already knew I wanted to go to Nepal. It stood out to me as a deeply interesting culture with plenty of opportunities for adventure and clinical experiences.
I had heard about Work the World through talks from previous students at my university, and discovered online that they were one of the only companies organising electives in Nepal. Secondly, the website had loads of great information and was well presented. Reading over this, I became more sure of my decision. Thirdly, it seemed an easier option to have Work the World organise everything for me than to try and do it myself.
Once I had decided on Nepal, the choice was between Pokhara and Kathmandu. Having read a little about each on tourism websites, I decided to go for Pokhara because it seemed smaller, and is close to the mountains with lots of opportunity for outdoor activities.
On my first day in Nepal I was picked up from Pokhara airport by one of the Work the World staff. From there I was taken to the WtW house where I was given a tour and met some other students and staff. That evening everyone in the house had a meal together to welcome the new students.
Out of all the departments I rotated through, my time in the Emergency Department was particularly memorable. I found that there were greater differences there between the UK and Nepal than there had been in surgery. Some particularly memorable cases included snake bites, typhoid, and organophosphate poisoning—the type of thing that I have never seen in hospital at home.
The following day I, along with a few other new students, was given a city tour and orientation by Karuna. We were shown the city centre, picked up Nepali SIM cards for our phones, were taken out to a restaurant for lunch and we did some sightseeing around Pokhara. I was also shown how to get to the hospital using the public buses, shown around the hospital and introduced to my supervisor in the Surgery Department. I felt very welcome when I arrived, everyone was friendly and it all seemed very safe and comfortable.
Out of all the departments I rotated through, my time in the Emergency Department was particularly memorable. I found that there were greater differences there between the UK and Nepal than there had been in surgery. Some particularly memorable cases included snake bites, typhoid, and organophosphate poisoning—the type of thing that I have never seen in hospital at home. We were encouraged to get involved with the team and assist with examinations and procedures, which was good. All of this helped me to gain an appreciation of what it is like to work in an under-resourced hospital such as the one I was in.
Outside of placement, there are lots of day trips you can do around Pokhara which the staff there can recommend. These were all great fun; mountain biking, white-water rafting, paragliding and hiking were among our weekend activities during my stay.
The Work the World house was very nice. There were 8-15 students staying during my time there which varied from week to week. The company was great, and we would often all go out and make plans together for our evenings and weekends. Food was provided for us in the house which was always great (particularly the barbecue on Thursdays). We had Nepali language lessons once a week at the house which were great fun, even if I did learn only a few rudimentary words of Nepali!
My week on the Village Healthcare Week was the most memorable week of my trip. I spent the week living with Hira and her lovely family in a small village, Bahakot, up in the hills with a fantastic view of the mountains. Living in the community for a week really was a unique experience. I got up most days before sunrise to go hiking, and was able to see the most incredible views of the sun rising over the Himalayas.
Culturally, the week was really great and I experienced a way of life that I would likely never have otherwise been able to. I would definitely recommend going on the VHE week if you get a chance, it really was the best week I spent in Nepal. I would say it’s definitely worth considering taking a placement in Nepal. I had a really great trip and enjoyed myself a lot. The best things about it from my point of view were the constant company of other students in the WtW house, the activities and trips we were able to take, and the experience of living in a culture so unknown to me for 6 weeks or so.
Nepal is definitely a country you should visit at some point. The scenery is really spectacular!