Namaste means hello and goodbye in Hindi!
After a very long flight and discovering that they forgot to pack our luggage on the plane, we finally arrived home. It feels very bittersweet. When Meredith and I decided we wanted to do an international rotation, we chose this program within what seemed like 10 minutes. We didn’t even explore many other programs or do much research into whether it was a good time of year. It just felt right. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to choose India or CFHI and I truly will miss being there.
It turns out, March is a fantastic time to visit India. The weather was great almost the entire time we were there. In Dehradun, the weather was in the upper 70s in early March and upper 80s in late March. Mussoorie sits on one of the foothills of the Hilmalayas so it is typically colder in the mid 30s. However, since it is before peak travel time it is very quiet and easy to appreciate all the views. In addition, March is when Holi is celebrated! I am so glad we were able to participate in this wonderful festival of color.
Having participated in an international rotation after my first year of medical school in Botswana (country in Africa), I thought I had an idea of what to expect. However, this rotation was much different because we were fairly independent throughout the month. We lived with a host family and found our own transportation to work. Initially, that felt very daunting and scary. As time went on, I realized how appreciative I was for having the opportunity to truly be immersed in the culture and every day life.
Besides all the beautiful outfits and all the delicious food, the thing I appreciated most about India was the people. Everyone was profoundly kind and flexible in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to understand without experiencing it. For example, Meredith had her arm outside a Vikram one day and one of the other riders signaled her to keep it inside to prevent it from getting hit by any moving vehicles. Another time, we switched seats on a train and one of the other riders spoke for us (since we don’t know Hindi) when the people assigned to our seats arrived.
In terms of medicine, one thing I witnessed throughout the month is the profound sense of compassion and responsibility each physician had for their patients. It is more than just a job for them. Each physician we rotated with worked at least 6-7 days/week and would not stop seeing patients until everyone had been seen, knowing that patients may have traveled a long distance.
Child and Family Health International (CFHI) was absolutely fantastic and I would recommend their programs to any pre-med/medical student interested in participating in an international rotation. I originally chose CFHI because they are non-profit and run through local people that live in country year round. Beyond the basics of what is presented in the program, there was a profound amount of hospitality. Throughout the month Meredith and I met many family members of our homestay family, we were invited to numerous family events by our local coordinator, Myank, and were invited to dinner by the Delhi coordinator, Hema. Even with having students year round, they always managed to make us feel welcome and include us in their family functions. These people are what really helped make this experience unforgetable.
Finally, while any travel abroad will pose its challenges, I have learned that perspective is everything. Remaining positive when things don’t go as planned is the key to making the most out of an experience.