Second in a series
Author Ashley Grimshaw is one of five Upstate medical students who traveled to Nicaragua over the summer to volunteer (another student went to Peru). The trips were coordinated by Upstate’s Center for Civic Engagement, which provides all Upstate students with volunteer opportunities in Syracuse and in countries where Upstate has an established clinical presence. The students’ reflections will be posted here periodically.
By Ashley Grimshaw, Class of 2015
The trip to Nicaragua was the experience of a lifetime. The trip was three weeks long and we were able to visit many cities in Nicaragua including Managua, Leon and Ocotal.
The majority of our time was spent in El Sauce where we stayed with host families. The host family experience was amazing. It really allowed us to be immersed in the culture, as the families didn’t speak any English. I became extremely close with my family, which made it very hard to leave, but we plan on keeping in touch via e-mail.
In terms of medicine, we went out every day to a different health post in a rural area. In these places the health posts are only open maybe one time a week and people wait in line for hours to see a physician. We were able to gain a lot of experience in OB/GYN, pediatrics and general medicine.
The physicians we worked with included us in patient care, and many times we were taking the patient history and doing the physical exam. We learned how to do a Pap smear, measure the fundal height of a pregnant woman, feel for the position of a fetus, and listen for a fetal heartbeat using a stethoscope.
This experience allowed us to learn a lot about the differences between the health care systems in Nicaragua and the United States. We also had some amazing tourist experiences. We went volcano boarding, to the beach, horseback riding through the mountains and zip lining over a lagoon. We also learned how to make tortillas and coffee.
We also did a lot of hiking and sightseeing, and had plenty of time to explore the culture and different areas we stayed in. Nicaragua is incredibly beautiful. The highlight of the trip, though, was all of the people we met. Everyone was incredibly nice and very patient in helping us understand Spanish.
We did have translators a lot of time, but it was fun speaking Spanish. We were also able to help with an English class for the people who lived in El Sauce through Enlace Project (the non-profit that organized our trip) and it was a great way to meet people and have fun. I would go back to Nicaragua in a heartbeat.