Centre for International Health

Student interview: Practice, education and leisure in India

Seeing how the beliefs, culture and resources affect the medical profession outside Western Europe part of the motivation for medical student Lene as she applied for the course Global Health at UiB. Here she tells us about what she experienced during the course.

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Lene is studying medicine in Bergen and traveled in 2010 to India on a field visit with the other students in the Global Health course. Before she left she expected to learn a lot about global health challenges, to see a clinical practice far from what we have here in Norway and maybe get some new perspectives.  

Fellow students from around the world
-The lectures in the course in Bergen surpassed all expectations! Lene says that the lectures were interesting and varied. They had lectures about global issues both in small groups and in larger classes with master students in International Health from other parts of the world. The master students were knowledgeable and had seen and experienced much, so discussion and problem solving with them was educational! The study environment was good, the lecturers were enthusiastic and the commitment of the students was high.

Meeting India
The first meeting with India was special, says Lene, new sounds, smells and visual impressions - and especially the traffic  where honking replace indicator lights!  In India, students show respect to teachers by meeting early for lectures and pay close attention during the talks, so that drawing doodles in the lecture notes are not well received. Lene explains that in addition to being at the CMC, they were at the mobile clinics where nurses visited new mothers. They could even observe orthopedic surgery at a hospital so small that their pediatric ward consisted of a single nurse.

Practice and leisure
Lene tells us that many of the experiences in the hospital sparked mixed feelings; it was very educational but also sad, because it was often destinies far more dramatic than what is usual in Norway. Visits in the mobile clinics was easier to see as entirely positive, since many of those who came to the clinic obviously wouldn’t have got help if they had had to travel the long way to town.

To pick the best experience from my spare time is almost impossible, Lene thinks. The students had, among other things, a trip to Pondicherry, a town on the southeast coast of Tamil Nadu with clear marks being a former French colony. The atmosphere was relaxed, the people friendly and the city had real character!

Language and other challenges
When asked about any challenges she faced in India, Lene mentions language problems. People in Tamil Nadu are proud of their language, and not everyone understands much English. Another challenge was the meeting with doctors who did not really understand why the students were there, with no clinical experience from home!

A lot of good experiences
I would strongly recommend other medical students to take the Global Health course, says Lene. It is well planned, well put together and very educational! She points out that experiences gained through the course are very useful even if the way forward should not involve work in global health. I had many good experiences, and even more which in retrospect turned out to be very useful, she concludes.

Lene wrote a blog during her stay in India, it can be found here:
70 days in India