Mehruba Alam - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I always knew I wanted to participate in an abroad program while I pursued my bachelor's degree because I have heard nothing but amazing things about going abroad. So many of my friends participated in so many different programs, and I was inspired and amazed by all of the things they were able to experience. Going abroad is such an invaluable experience and words cannot describe how happy I am that I decided to participate in Vive Peru. 

Laguna 69, Peru
This was before the Laguna 69 hike.

Why did you choose Vive Peru?

I am currently on the pre-med track and I thought the clinical medicine program would expose me to amazing learning opportunities that can help me advance in my career. Not only that, I had a friend who participated in this exact program and highly recommended it to me.

What was your favorite part about Peru?

I stayed in Trujillo, which is one of the bigger cities in Peru. It reminded me a lot about the country my parents are from and it provided a homey feeling. Peru is different from America in so many different ways, and it was very refreshing to experience all the differences. My favorite part about Trujillo, however, was the access to all the panaderia they have to offer. There truly is nothing better than fresh baked goods. The culture, music, and scenery in Peru also provided some of the favorite memories I have as well. 

What made your experience abroad unique?

Peru's main language is Spanish, so having to heavily depend on my beginner Spanish skills was a tad bit difficult. However, I was able to better my Spanish and I learned a lot of Spanish medical terminology, which will be greatly beneficial if I practice medicine in the current state that I reside in. Peru's health care regulation laws are also much more lenient than America, so students are able to practice more intense skills that are not possible to learn in America as well as witness many amazing surgeries, which is difficult to accomplish as an undergrad. 

Volunteers pose with traditional Peruvian dancers
The man and woman in the middle are dancers who performed traditional dances pertaining to different regions of Peru.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff were incredibly kind and helped organize the day to day activities of the volunteers. They created different schedules and activities for different programs and made sure something was being done at all times. They also advised us on the best places to visit and what to do around town when we had free time. They were very helpful when the volunteers needed them and they were very kind in answering any questions. 

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I definitely wish I had taken advantage of the end of the program visit to Machu Pichu, because it's one of the seven wonders of the world and it contains such rich history. To have been able to see how and where the ancient Inca's lived would have been an incredible site and I really regret not participating.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

The typical weekday of a volunteer in the program begins around 7 a.m., when we wake up and get dressed in our uniforms for the day. We would then have breakfast with our host families and go to our work sites where we would spend the majority of our days. In my program, I would go to different hospitals and shadow different doctors to see how their day to day work would vary. I was able to see different specialties and different procedures and learn a lot about the Peruvian healthcare system.

I would then go back home and have lunch with my host family and have a small break in the afternoon. Then I would meet up with the rest of the volunteers in the main office and continue learning in med class or do different activities, like wrapping presents and giving them to children in under served communities.

Laguna 69, Peru
This is Laguna 69! So worth the grueling hike!

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

The winter program was amazing because it allotted us three day weekends to explore different cities in Peru. I was able to go to Huaraz, which is a couple hours south of Trujillo by bus. This was truly a memorable trip because I hiked Laguna 69, which was a very demanding hike; however, I had an amazing guide who stayed by my side throughout the grueling hike and I was able to see something I might not ever be able to see again. I saw huge glaciers and beautiful clear blue-turquoise water and although it was a hard hike, it truly was worth reaching the top with my friends. I felt very accomplished that day and I was able to meet people from around the world during that trip. I highly suggest taking weekend trips to other cities and seeing just how different they can be from your host city.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I lived with an amazing host mom and two other volunteers in the program. We had a lot of space in our rooms and were allowed to lounge around the house as well. It was located next to many corner shops, so we were easily able to receive whatever we needed whenever we wanted. It was also very close to the office, which is convenient when you have to walk there after a huge lunch.

What I liked best about living here was my host mom. She was a very kind and caring woman who tried very hard to understand our broken Spanish. She danced and joked with us, and leaving her was probably the hardest part of leaving Peru. She truly loved you like a mom and I don't think my experience would have been the same without her. I also became very good friends with the volunteers I lived with and we still grab food every now and then as well!

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

One thing every participant should know before participating in the program is that you experience what you make of it. I went to broaden my knowledge on medicine and healthcare and I was able to do that. However, don't be shy about expressing interest in something that is not being offered. The in country staff are there to make your experience memorable and life lasting and they will try their best to accommodate your request.

Going abroad really is a life changing experience, but to make such an experience is really up to the goer, so be sure to let your interests be known! 
Peruvian children of Señor de los Milagros
The wonderful children of Señor de los Milagros along with the rest of the winter volunteers!

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

Vive Peru has really been a validating experience. I really know now that medicine is the right path for me and I am willing to do whatever it takes to get to where I want to be. If has made me more passionate about medicine and has given me the drive to intensely continue the rest of my undergrad degree. Not only that, but I was able to see so much that is very difficult for an undergrad in the United States to see and I think it will really help me in the long run decide what exactly I want to pursue in medicine.

I also had such an incredible time in Peru that I want to try and go abroad again one more time before I graduate. This really is the only time in my life that I can go out and learn about different countries, cultures, and languages so easily. Going abroad shows and teaches you a lot, and it is something I highly recommend to anyone questioning or curious about pursuing it! 

Would you recommend Vive Peru to others? Why?

I definitely have and would continue to recommend Vive Peru. I truly had such an amazing time there and I would love to be able to potentially go back one day. Peru is such a beautiful country with ancient history and gorgeous scenery. The food is amazing and the culture is very welcoming. I learned an incredible deal and was able to experience such memorable things. From seeing surgeries to meeting wonderful people to experience beautiful scenery, there is not a single part of me that regrets going.

I think it is overall a great opportunity and if your interests lie within what Vive Peru has to offer or you think could offer, I really do recommend participating in this program!