Cardiff University 2018

Radiography, Merida Mexico

Begum, RefaI wanted to travel once I’d graduated, so I thought why not just start now and combine it with practice as a radiographer.

At the time, I was quite nervous around new people, so I thought it would take me out of my comfort zone and force me to meet some new people.

I also thought it would be a great chance to see how radiography was practiced differently in another country.

Experiences like this build confidence and open your mind to seeing things in different ways.

I approached my university to see if they could help me and one of my clinical lecturers suggested I try Work the World. He told me that other students had travelled with Work the World previously, so I thought I’d reach out to them.

Begum, Refa

Once I’d looked at the website and had a chat with someone it was clear that they were organised. Their programmes were put together in such a way that I didn’t have to stress about a thing. I had a professional helping me with everything and they covered a lot of things that I wouldn’t have thought of myself.

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When I first walked into the Work the World house in Merida, I was wowed. Everything was new, we had a pool… it was gorgeous. It was so nice to walk in and be surprised like that.

When you go to another country and someone else is sorting out your accommodation, you don’t really know what to expect. But it turned out to be beautiful.

The atmosphere of the house was friendly, and I got positive vibes from every single person who walked in. Not just the Work the World staff, but all my fellow students as well. They all had open minds to make friends and to experience things together.

The food that the Work the World catering team prepared each morning and evening was really delicious. There was real variety too.

Begum, Refa

The Work the World staff were great at communicating. Every time I needed them, for whatever that might have been, they were there. They were there in the house all day, and we could contact them at night if we needed to.

They even came to visit us on placement to make sure everything was going well. They were so supportive and friendly, and they just knew exactly how to keep us happy on an individual level.

It was nice to have such a variety of people in the house. As healthcare students, I think we always have a certain perception of each clinical profession, especially the ones we’re not in.

It was nice to ask questions of students in other disciplines to get their perspectives. People were so open and comfortable with one another so we asked questions openly.

Begum, Refa

Everyone had different strengths and weaknesses, and we all supported each other throughout the placement.

There were people who were more outgoing than others, and some who were quieter. But that didn’t matter, because we were all in the same situation together. We helped each other come out of our shells.

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My placement hospital was massive! I’d never seen a hospital like it, not even in the UK. It almost didn’t feel like a hospital at all. It was so modern—there was even a fountain in the middle of the grounds.

The equipment they had was modern too. There were even things we didn’t have back in the UK. In General X-ray, for example they had newer, more versatile equipment to perform scans.

Begum, Refa

There were a lot of differences in how they practiced. When it came to things like radiation protection, they were a lot more lax about protocol than we were back home, which took a while to get used to.

Doing portable X-ray for example, in the UK we say “X-ray” and people move out of the immediate area to make sure they’re not being exposed to radiation unnecessarily.

In my placement hospital, staff didn’t seem to worry about this. They happily stood near the machinery even when it was in use. The safety element just didn’t seem that important to them. Their focus was more about taking the picture and finding out what was going on.

Begum, Refa

In cardiology, there was one particular case I was really surprised by. It was a case that I had never heard of before (and never would have in the UK). We performed a CT on a patient who had been bitten by an indigenous insect that releases a venom which stops the valves in the heart from opening and closing.

The cardiologist told us that it was extremely uncommon, but the bug was only found in the Yucatan peninsula. We would have never seen that in the UK!

Local hospital staff were lovely. They were open and friendly, and made every effort to get to know us. They were interested in where we were from and how things were different in our hospitals at home.

The attitude towards us was very much “Let’s get to work!”. They didn’t make us stand around, and we were instantly involved and part of the team.

Begum, Refa

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We did a lot while we were there, but we wanted to stay for even longer because we barely scratched the surface!

Our first outing as a group was to Chichen Itza. It was a great ice-breaker. In the house it was great to talk to people, but when we were going out and about and doing things it brought us all together more closely.

The weekend we spent on Isla Mujeres was amazing. It was a beautiful, peaceful island that had some amazing beaches. We had a great night out there too.

We also went to Celestun to see the flamingos. The boat ride we took there was lovely. It took us to a gorgeous blue lake, and then to a beach.

Begum, Refa

The locals in Merida were lovely. The people of Mexico had a reputation for being nice, but I didn’t know quite how lovely until I was out there meeting them. They treated me so well.

The whole experience changed me as a person. I’m so much more comfortable being myself, and I feel stronger and more confident as a person.

Go with an open mind, meet as many people as you can and make the most out of every opportunity—you never know when it will come along again!

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