University of Iowa

Student Reflections on Diversity Abroad:India

March 1st, 2018

Hello prospective study abroad students!

My name is Brooke Jennings, and I am fourth year biology student on the pre-medicine track. This winter I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Kerala, India. When I first decided to study abroad, I knew that the cost would be my primary obstacle. I grew up in a low-income household, and I am currently putting myself through school. This meant that I had to decide if studying abroad was worth it, that it would make a difference in my educational experience. This was the best decision I have ever made. The trip to India was nothing short of life changing. Working with the wonderful staff of Pallium India was the best experience of my undergraduate career.

The program I was in focused on pain, palliative care, and hospice care.  We worked with a variety of amazing health professionals at Pallium India, such as nurses, doctors, and social workers. While preparing to go, I was very excited for the opportunity to work on projects to assist them, and learn about the differences in healthcare of another country. What I didn’t realize was how much I would learn from them, and how they would shape my care as a future physician.

The Pallium staff allowed us to shadow them, meet patients, and visit homes. This unique experience allowed me to pick up on what I normally wouldn’t have. I was able to get an inspiring take on the universal language of compassion. Despite the language barrier we often faced, I could clearly see the impact of compassion on their care. In the United States, I think it was easy for me to take medical resources for granted. Here, where resources could be scarce, I was reminded of one of the most basic and important aspects of caring for patients: compassion. Whether it is shown through a comforting touch of the hand, a smile, or eye contact, compassion is a powerful thing. I have been given a lesson that I will carry with me forever as a physician. I know that in the future I will have patients that have different religious and cultural beliefs. Sometimes my patients may even speak a different language. I have now realized that I don’t need a translator or to speak 7 different languages to reach my patients emotionally. A language will not stop you from showing comfort or compassion, because compassion is a universal language.

Seeing the generosity and appreciation of people who sometimes had so little had the largest impact on me. We met many families who struggled financially to get the healthcare they needed, yet, when we walked in they would have a meal waiting for us. They were always so happy to welcome us into their homes. In the United States, I think it can sometimes be easy to get lost in material things. Being in a low-income family growing up, I always wanted things that other kids had.  One thing I learned from the Kerala people is an appreciation for what I have, and I no longer desire to compare myself to others. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to get an education and have a wonderful home to live in. I cannot express how thankful I am to have met the wonderful families and staff at Pallium India.

Studying abroad in India has not only prepared me to be a better physician, but also allowed me to grow as a person. Appreciation and generosity are two exceptional characteristics I was able to experience during my trip. There is so much to learn when you leave your comfort zone. I urge you to take the next step towards studying abroad, you will not regret it. It is worth every cost.

Best,

Brooke

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