The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on First-Generation Abroad: Time is precious

May 22nd, 2013

Dear Prospective Student, 

April Lam and others near the ocean in India

My name is April Lam, and I am a senior undergraduate student majoring in Health and Human Physiology at the University of Iowa. Over the fall semester, after hearing professors introduce about the India Winterim program, I decided to study abroad. I did not have a clue of what I have gotten myself into, but I was willing to learn about anything. The reasons I made the decision were due to my longing desires of wanting to travel, learn new culture, language, get out of the cold winter and earn elective credits for my degree. I travelled to Madurai, India for the course of Diagnosing Diseases and I got more than what I expected in India. It definitely was an experience I would do it all over again. Although this program was only three weeks, I learned a lot from the hands on experience from the Meenakshi Mission Hospital Center with the help of Professor Stauss and Dr. Beiber. With my own eyes, I got to see the different types of diseases and procedures right next to the surgeons/doctors/nurses. India has given me a different perspective in how their hospital is operated and a different perspective in life. 

This program should be considered by a lot of students. You have a great opportunity in India that not a lot of other countries, as well as the US, offer. Let me tell you, if you have the guts and have the mindset of not throwing up or fainting in an operation room, you have the opportunity to see any operation. For me, I saw a hemimandibulectomy, which is the removal of one half of the mandible. This operation was done to remove a tumor; and after that, we got to see the doctors take out the patient’s fibula with a saw like instrument in order to reconstruct the mandibles. Pretty graphic, huh? This gives the student up front learning, answering questions the surgeons might throw at you, and giving you chances to ask the surgeons and doctors why they do what they do. The best part was applying our knowledge of the physical assessment we learned in class to follow up with the patients. Students were grouped in 4-6 to follow a facilitator, and if the facilitators knew what they were doing, they were willing to show available departments operation.  

Time is precious! I spent my New Years and Pongo days with India people and learned the different meanings, dances and languages. Also, my time in India was definitely the best educational experience I had ever had. Granted the hours were strenuous, but in the end, I took a lot back to the US that makes me appreciate my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to travel with and spend the most time with for three weeks. I took education and friends back to Iowa City, and we surprisingly spend more time with each other hanging out and studying with each other than we thought we would.

April Lam working with a patient in India

What I took back to the US is patience. In India, as loud as the roads are and as crazy as they drive, the people in India have patience. They definitely do not take things for granted. India is a third world country and if I know that people out there can live on a dollar a day, I should be able to do that. The US is definitely spoiled, and I think every student should make a decision to study abroad in a third world country to understand that their life is not bad. In India, people are happy for what little they have and I hope that when people come back to the United States, they will be able to apply that to their life and look at life on the brighter side.

April Lam