Final Topic – When you finish your internship, take a moment to reflect on the impact of the experience.
This summer has been one of the most adventurous summers of my life. My internship in Nicaragua has shaped not only my intellectual capabilities, but also me as a person. Even now two weeks after my arrival back in the Michigan, I can still catch the subtle differences in who I was before the trip and who I am after my trip.
The night before my departure to Nicaragua, I was in somewhat of a panic mode. I was less than 24 hours from traveling to a completely unknown country, and had spoken to my supervisor only once in a 15 minute skype call. It was my first time traveling completely alone, and although I had been to other “third-world” countries before, I still felt the fear of not knowing what to expect. As I walked outside the airport, I was approached by many very persistent individuals asking if I needed a taxi, some even attempting to speak to me in English. I wondered what about me gave off the fact that I was coming from an English speaking country, since after all I was born in Costa Rica, so I didn’t think that I looked that different from them. But I soon learned that even my way walking differentiated me, I kept walking and finally saw a man who I later learned was named Jose Santos holding a paper with my name. We went to his car, and were on our way to what I would soon call my home.
Something I immediately noticed was how little small talk there is when you initially meet someone in Nicaragua; which made me (a very bad small talker) a little uncomfortable at times. I would have to learn to speak first since it was the only way for strangers to talk to you. We rode through the city of Managua, and I was reminded of what driving outside of Michigan was like… in Managua in particularly…. Absolutely no rules! We stopped at a stoplight and I was shocked to see the hanging feet of two small children riding in the back of a pickup truck, something I had never seen be accepted to publicly. When we finally arrived at my “apart-hotel” I was introduced to the owners and security guard, and after passing various locks I was finally in my room. But to my surprise, there was nothing there waiting for…. No food, no water, no toilet paper. I asked the owner where was the nearest supermarket, and he gave me somewhat of an idea, but I was also introduced to how different directions were given: no streets, no addresses, only reference points. I decided to put on my big girl shoes and headed to the supermarket, at ten o’clock at night in a completely foreign place.
When I look back, I have no idea how I made it back to my apartment. I am just thankful that I did. Being taken to a completely unknown place without any direction from anyone is something I had never experienced and I am glad that I was able to do this my first night there, since it definitely put me in survival mode. From the very beginning I realized that in order for me to get to places and not have the next ten weeks be completely miserable, was to learn to get out. I was going to have to learn to talk to strangers, ask questions, and step out of that comfort zone that I was so used to being in. Most importantly, I needed to learn to trust myself, and walk confidently, even when I felt in complete fear mode.
During my internship, I was able to work in a children’s hospital, where I had the opportunity of learning the ropes of the different areas of a very busy and underprivileged hospital. I was able to see the tasks of different health care workers, and observe the different conditions they are expected to work in. I learned that as a future health care provider, I am no longer as worried about making as much money as possible, but instead more worried about the people I help. After this internship I am more motivated to helping those that are underprivileged in some way. I learned that coming from a low-income minority background, I myself am able to identify with underprivileged individuals and am motivated to work for helping others. In my time there, I became more interested in the patient’s well-being than the research itself, which is something that has had a major impact in my future career goals. Surprisingly, I no longer see living outside of the US as something I would never do, and instead can picture myself living a few weeks of the year helping those that need it the most.