This summer I completed an eight week Public Health internship in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Traveling had always been a dream of mine and ever since speaking with the study abroad office my sophomore year, I couldn’t get Thailand off of my mind. I’d only been out of the country once before- to Canada, with the EKU Honors Program after participating in a “Sidewalk U” diversity course.
So on June 5, 2019 I said “see ya later” to my friends, family and comfort zone for two months. Upon my arrival in Thailand, I was greeted by my CISabroad onsite staff. I also got to meet the other 7 interns in various programs from different universities around the states. These people quickly grew to be some of my best friends!
In Thailand I was also welcomed by beautiful mountain ranges. I grew up in Appalachia and having the mountains near me was so comforting and reminded me of home. I adapted very well to the challenge of a new culture. The people I met were fantastic and made settling in so much easier.
During my time in Thailand, I lived with a host family in a subdistrict around an hour outside of Chiang Mai city. I was authentically immersed in the relaxed Thai lifestyle every day. I got to taste authentic cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even help my host mother cook some of the meals! The food was one of the highlights of the trip!
Every week day, I took a short 10 minute walk to work. In my internship, I worked 3 days a week at a Primary Care Unit (PCU). I was able to observe clinical procedures in the PCU, triage patients and take their blood sugar and blood pressure, clean and redress wounds, and fill prescriptions. Every Tuesday was a mobile clinic, where we would travel to a village in the subdistrict to provide care for those who were unable to travel to the clinic to receive the health care they needed! This was one of my favorite parts of my position. Additionally, we completed home visits, vaccination and physical exam days at local schools, and visited units including a Neurological Rehab facility, outpatient department and hemodialysis centers within the district hospital. I was able to get hands-on experience while not only watching, but being able to aid in physical exams. Under supervision, I was able to listen to patients’ hearts and lungs, check their eyes for blood flow, teeth for dental referrals, throat and nails for vitamin deficiencies as well as give a general hygiene/wellness check. On the other two days of the week, I volunteered at a local school teaching English to first through sixth graders! The teacher had a lesson plan that we helped follow and give one-on-one time with the students. Though I’ve never considered education as a career path, teaching was an excellent way to get involved with the community.
My program included excursions such as a Thai Cooking Class and visit to an Elephant Sanctuary, but on the weekends, we were free to travel within and around Thailand!
As a pre-medical student, the clinical exposure was invaluable. I learned so much not only about global health, but rural health. My passion is to become a rural physician, and working with the rural community in Thailand was an incredible learning experience. In addition, I received internship credit through the Psychology Department to finish up my required hours for my psychology minor.
On this trip, I learned how to laugh at myself and live in the moment. I gained communication skills, confidence and learned to be more autonomous. I have a greater appreciation for the world and cultures around me. I strongly encourage everyone to go abroad if given the wonderful opportunity! From visiting beautiful Buddhist temples, bathing an elephant and scuba diving in the beautifully blue Indian Ocean, I made countless memories and couldn’t be more thankful for my time spent there.