Jordan Curry - 2014 Program Participant

What made you want to do an international program?

I wanted to do an international program for a few reasons. First, global exposure is both useful for self-growth and creating a more thorough and well rounded internal perspective. It also reflects positively on a student's willingness to step beyond their boundaries of what is comfortable and seek to experience the unfamiliar. Second, as medicine continually evolves to be more inclusive, team oriented, and globally integrated, shadowing outside of the U.S. allows for valuable insight into the many similarities and differences between American healthcare and the varying systems of other regions. Also, traveling to Europe for the summer tends to sound promising!

coast of Spain

The gorgeous coast of Spain

What made you chose the Atlantis Project over all the other available programs?

I chose the Atlantis Project because they offered the best and most comprehensive shadowing opportunity out of the programs I reviewed. Twenty-five hours per week is a rare chance to get an in-depth look at a particular specialty. I was also interested in the Base five teaching component that was offered as an optional addition to the program. Location was also a major advantage and played a significant role in my final choice since I wanted to improve my Spanish speaking skills. Immersion is truly the best way to accelerate language learning and fluency. Additionally, knowing that the program was started at UNC and managed by a UNC alumni gave me confidence that I was choosing the right project to invest my time in.

What was your favorite part about Gran Canaria?

The local population was friendly and welcoming, the food was fantastic, and the scenery of the island was really something you'd imagine seeing as a feature in National Geographic, so it's actually pretty hard for me to pick my favorite part about this location. I think the best part of Gran Canaria is the diversity of climates and landscapes. I loved being able to see the ocean from nearly any spot in the hospital, watching the harbor and Las Canteras Beach from the bus stop, feeling the sea breeze walking back to the residencia, climbing the sand dunes at Maspalomas, seeing the sand mists from Morocco, hiking above the clouds, and driving through the winding (and occasionally slightly perilous) roads carved into the mountains. Gran Canaria is a place unlike anywhere I've ever traveled before and it's definitely a place worth exploring.

What makes the Atlantis Project a unique program?

The Atlantis Project is definitely unique in it's location. I had a vague frame of reference regarding the Canary Islands, but beyond their general geographic location I had no knowledge of the history, culture, or opportunities the islands had to offer. I think what's unique about the AP, and what they really did a good job with, is offering a holistic experience that allows students to primarily focus their time and energy on shadowing physicians, as well as making sure AP fellows experience the many sites and locations the islands have to offer by including excursions (hiking, star watching, wine tasting, whale watching, museum tours, etc.), Spanish classes, dinners at local restaurants, and living in a university residencia. There's a good balance between educational and experiential components of the program.

What kinds of support did the local coordinators offer you?

Our local coordinators on the ground were natives of the Canary Islands, which was really advantageous in navigating the island and understanding the cultural expectations of the natives. It was reassuring to know that our coordinators were an email or text away, and could help us address any problems or concerns that came up during the internship. Our local coordinators were receptive to feedback regarding transportation, meals, and scheduling and did their best to make changes to the program that would make our experience a positive one. Our local coordinators introduced us to our attending physicians, made sure we had working cell phones/SIM cards, arranged our dinners, made sure we had access to resources that could help us while staying in Gran Canaria, and gave suggestions for local activities and traveling.

In retrospect, what is one thing you would have done differently while abroad?

Thinking back, the one thing I almost certainly would have done was travel more while I was in Gran Canaria. Although the AP planned activities on the weekends were great, I wish I would have visited Morocco (less than 100km apart from Gran Canaria) and some of the other islands that comprise the Canaries. Being a full time student, summer is really the only time for me to travel, so I wish I would have taken advantage of being so close to both Europe and Africa since transatlantic flights can be pretty expensive. If I had the chance to do it over, I would have definitely taken some time to travel to other places while it was convenient.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

Typical weekday: Wake up around 6:30 or 7 a.m., get dressed and ready for shadowing, eat breakfast at the residencia, walk to the bus stop by 8:15 a.m., about a 20 minute bus ride to the hospital, morning cafe con leche y leche in the hospital cafeteria, shadowing starts at 9 a.m., surgery (or clinic rotations) until 2 or 3 p.m., lunch in the hospital cafeteria, catch the bus home (unless it's one the Base five teaching days), NAP TIME, hang out with other AP fellows, watch a movie or read, dinner with everyone at a local restaurant or the residencia (unless it's Thursday, which means tapas!!), go to sleep around midnight and get ready to do it all again the next day!

What were your favorite activities outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program? 

My favorite activities outside of the normal day-to-day schedule were definitely the excursions that capitalized on the thriving cultures and communities of Gran Canaria. Traveling to so many different parts of the island allowed me to see how rich the history of Gran Canaria was. Eating some of the foods the Canary Islands are known for (papas arrugadas and mojo, local goat cheeses, padrón peppers, fried cheese and jelly, paella, and my personal favorite, Spanish tortilla), hiking up to Roque Nublo where ancient native people worshipped, seeing the bridge where a scene from Fast and Furious 6 was filmed, and buying from local markets all made for a such a fun and unforgettable trip.

What were your accommodations like in Gran Canaria and what did you like most about them?

We stayed in a residencia (US equivalent of a dormitory) at the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which was about 15 minutes (bus ride) outside the city. The dorm was actually much nicer than any dorm I had lived in at UNC, and we had our own single rooms (equipped with a twin bed, desk and chair, coat rack, closet and drawers), individual bathrooms, and maid service a few days out of the week. The laundry room and residencia dining hall were just a few floors below us. The rooms had large bay windows that let in a nice breeze all day and opened up to sights of the ocean and views down the neighborhood to the seaside. I liked how safe the residencia felt since it was in a quiet university neighborhood, had a 24 hour lobby attendant to take care of any issues that might occur, and our individually coded key cards that opened our room doors.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life? 

Coming back home from Spain made me see both the strengths and weaknesses in American healthcare. As I continue working and volunteering at various healthcare facilities I take both the academic and personal lessons that I learned in Gran Canaria to heart. Whereas before I had only a relatively uni-dimensional U.S. privatized standard of healthcare to evaluate effectiveness of systems, I came back with a much more developed sense of the goals practitioners have to keep in mind when caring for their patients. Beyond medicine, traveling to Spain has fueled me with a passion to visit other places, become fluent in another language, lean into discomfort when trying new things, and to always remember that everyone has a different set of experiences that guide them in their ethics and actions. I can't wait to return to Gran Canaria, a place that turned into a home away from home during my summer abroad!