I wanted to spend my summer break meaningfully after finishing my first year of pharmacy school. So, I jumped onto Google to find an organization who could pull together an overseas pharmacy internship. After some searching, I landed on Work the World's website.
I chose them because they organized internships specifically for pharmacy students! Honestly, up until that point I struggled to find a good internship program that catered specifically for me.
The website was well-organized, so it was easy to navigate and choose the destination I wanted to travel to. After some deliberation, I picked the Philippines.
English is an official language in the Philippines, so I felt like there’d be no difficulties when it came to communication. The Philippines were quite near South Korea (where I live), so I figured that the cultural differences would probably be minimal too.
My first impression of the Philippines was amazing. It was really green and there were even lizards and other animals wandering around. Better still, the heat wasn’t as challenging as I’d expected.
After a member of the Work the World team collected me from the airport we travelled together to the Work the World house. When we arrived, they took me on a house tour with the other new arrivals.
The next day, we visited our placement hospital for an orientation. I received my schedule, and planned to rotate through a few of the departmental pharmacies. I spent time in the main pharmacy, NICU, ER, oncology, OR, and the clinical pharmacy.
The hospital staff were lovely. They were welcoming and surprisingly enthusiastic about Korean culture! I was also able to spend some time with the local Filipino students who were attending the local pharmacy school. I made some unforgettable memories with them.
The hospital was not developed in the way you might be used to where you’re from. The head pharmacist told me that the hospital was suffering from a serious lack of equipment and wards for patients.
To worsen matters, patients often opted for the cheapest medications as they couldn’t afford the alternatives. Doctors prescribed medication to patients, and then the pharmacists would provide the cheap version of what was prescribed. It was nearly always generic drugs as opposed to anything branded.
One of thing that was quite surprising for me was that many patients seemed to have a bias against anaesthetic drugs. They worried about the side effects and that they might not wake up from it. Pregnant women, for example, never used anesthetics drugs even during labour—they just endured.
Another interesting experience I had was while observing an endoscopy. In South Korea, most people undergo endoscopies with conscious sedation as it can be quite painful without. However, the patient whose endoscopy I observed went through it with no anesthesia whatsoever. It was actually quite difficult to watch.
My internship in the Philippines changed me a lot. Honestly, before coming to the Philippines, I didn’t have any distinct goals for my future in pharmacy. But after the placement, I was inspired to aim toward working for an NGO.
If you’re doing your internship with Work the World, be active, ask questions, show consideration and you will have the time of your life.