Students in Sri Lanka

Meet 5 students who participated in pharmacy placements abroad

Pharmacy students on placement in Africa and South Asia
Our pharmacy students share their experiences abroad as part of the Work the World program.

Bella Randell – Rwanda

My Grandmother used to live in Rwanda and still had some contacts there that helped me to curate my own volunteer trip. I spent two months in a centre for children with HIV. The centre cares for and provides them with the medicine and food they need until they turn 18.

Most memorable: Visit the Kigali Genocide memorial Centre – it was a tragic but an eye-opening experience.

Travel recommendations: Silver backed gorilla trekking was an amazing experience.

Bella's top tips:

  1. Plan! Time flies while you are there and before you know it, you'll be on your way home and regretting not doing more.
  2. Go with an open mind and non-judgemental attitude. Working with these children can be upsetting – if you have an open mind, interactions will run more smoothly.
  3. Be organised. Ensure you organise everything in advance, e.g. applying for extended visas, vaccinations, packing for the weather.

Final piece of advice: Get out of your comfort zone!

Chloe Tobin – Sri Lanka & Philippines

In 2016 I did a placement in the Philippines and it was very rewarding, so I embarked on another placement in Sri Lanka. I was looking forward to visiting as their medical system is completely free - unlike other developing countries I'd visited.

Most memorable: Visiting the Ayurvedic Clinic. I learnt to appreciate that, in some cases, complementary medicine is more appropriate and less invasive than western medicine.

Travel recommendations: Go to Guimara in Western Visayas in the Philippines during mango season – there is even a mango festival!

Chloe's top tips:

  1. You don't need to go with other people. Having completed two placements – I realised that Work the World will ensure that you are comfortable every step of the way.
  2. If the language barrier worries you, go to the Philippines.
  3. Bring your books! AMH and APF – this is essential.
  4. Try to get funding. This amazing experience doesn't come cheap.

Final piece of advice: Go on the village experience.

Savannah Reali – Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a country full of beautiful people, beautiful weather and beautiful scenery. Spending time at the Ayurvedic Clinic was the highlight for me – I learnt how to use the land for medicine and was able to help heal patients with traditional therapies.

Most challenging: My thick Aussie accent was challenging when trying to communication with people who speak limited English. Finding creative ways to communicate and persistence is key to overcoming this.

Most memorable: During the village week in Habarana, our tour guide Dinesh cooked us a traditional Sri Lankan curry with homemade bread and I deadest still dream about that meal.

Savannah's top tips:

  1. Ask questions! Your mentors will be much more open to you if you are interested.
  2. If there is a particular discipline of pharmacy that you are interested in, tell your mentor.They will give you more exposure in that area.
  3. Make friends. We all bonded over our shared experience and I made friends for life.
  4. Notable mention: If you can't handle your spice then watch out!

Final piece of advice: Stop talking about doing it and do it!

Sunny Manon – Nepal

Nepal has a rich culture, picturesque landscape and a health system that is very different to our own. I was impressed by the detailed way pharmacists communicate with patients and I will bring that into my practice. I would recommend going to Nepal with no expectations or preconceived ideas, having an open mind to the culture will allow you to get the most out of your trip.

Most memorable: Observing a childbirth.

Sunny's Top Tips:

  1. Move around the hospital. I was able to work in emergency and obstetrics.
  2. Immerse yourself in the experience. Even if that includes eating two huge plates of Dal Baht with your hands while out to lunch with staff. Appreciate their way of doing things.
  3. Be as busy as you can. Go out to restaurants, markets, take hikes see the beauty that Nepal has to offer. You will regret sitting still!
  4. Make an effort to speak Nepalese they will practice their English on you in return.
  5. Notable mention: Hike to Sarangkot, stay overnight and then paraglide down the next morning.

Final piece of advice: Drink the traditional sweet tea and STAY LONGER!

Wassi Hossain – Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is very different to Australia, there were literally thousands of patients lined up every day to get their medicine, the volume of work does not impact the pharmacist's abilities, to see this is worth the trip alone. Don't be tempted to get swept up in the relaxing aspects of the trip, take advantage of the volunteering opportunities available to you.

Most memorable: Communicating with patients and watching patient-pharmacist interactions in the surgical and psychiatric wards.

Travel highlight: Completing a 16-hour trek (google said 8 hours!) with thousands of other people. At the time I rated it poorly but in retrospect it was one of the highlights.

Wassi's top tips:

  1. Don't be shy, ask for help.
  2. Take your handbooks.
  3. Take an extra week at the end.
  4. Utilise your free afternoons and weekends.
  5. Notable mention: Pidurangala Rock has amazing views and isn't too touristy.

Final piece of advice: The spice levels are almost unnatural, it was almost painful for me to eat the food that the locals did.

1 May 2018