Most people instantly assume that work experience abroad is the only way to make your medical application stand out, but I know lots of people who have gotten in without doing so, so DON’T WORRY if work experience abroad is not a feasible option for you!
I have to admit, I was very fortunate to end up going abroad, but to a very different and perhaps more inclusive and realistic environment than those offered through the generic organisations like GapMedics and Projects Abroad. As a British Pakistani, a lot of my family obviously live in Pakistan, so I flew out there in the summer between Year 12 and 13 to stay with my grandparents in Lahore. Here, I was presented with a very unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience at ‘The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, which proved to be a sobering experience.
The institution was set up by Imran Khan (look him up….he’s a pretty big deal both in cricket and politics) in honour of his mother. Imran Khan managed to build the ENTIRE hospital solely through charity funds and donations: in fact, my mum was part of the initial fundraising for the project 25 odd years ago! Since then, Shaukat Khanum has been a massive success in Lahore, and has also expanded to Karachi. The hospital continues to run on donations to treat thousands of cancer patients free of charge (for those who can’t afford it).
ANYHOO, (sorry, I’m totally waffling now), I was very blessed to be offered a summer internship at the hospital within the Paediatrics ward where I spent my days interacting with underprivileged children; many of whom were refugees from the conflict in Afghanistan. I was exposed to rare mutations of cancer such as retinoblastomas and rhabdomyosarcomas, and also shadowed the chemotherapy administration team. As we made rounds, I found myself administering the only medicine I knew how to, laughter. The beauty of work experience abroad is that there are often not as many restrictions on the ‘shadowees’, allowing you to form more intimate relationships with patients and get a proper feel of a hospital environment. More than anything else, it was this experience that showed me I had the ability to adapt and empathise in some very emotionally disturbing situations.
I could go on and on about the things I saw, and maybe I will some other time, but for now I just want to hand out some quick advice for those looking to apply for work experience abroad, and for those of you who can’t:
- If you are thinking of gaining experience abroad, before rushing into things and going through an organisation such as GapMedics, maybe do a little bit of research into alternative hospitals and medical facilities abroad so that your experience can be more tailored to YOU, rather than having the same experience as everyone else. If you have family abroad then that’s a huge advantage, see if they know of any local institutions and project organisers they can put you in touch with. (Plus, that’s accommodation and food sorted, it’s a win win)!
- GapMedics is still an amazing opportunity, and if you can afford it, then by all means go for it! I would advise that when you’re there, maybe see if you can do a bit of networking and branch out of your comfort zone as much as you can so you can make the most of it.
- If working abroad is not feasible for you, DO NOT PANIC! It is certainly not the end all and be all; we are fortunate to be living in a country where there is no shortage of voluntary jobs, so apply, apply, apply and don’t give up hope!
If you have any questions regarding work experience, drop me an email or comment! If you are interested in reading more about Shaukat Khanum and perhaps even applying for an internship, have a look at this link: https://shaukatkhanum.org.pk/? . (Don’t worry about language barriers, they all speak perfect English!). Till next time!
“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt