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international volunteering?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by blue129, Apr 7, 2007.

  1. blue129


    Jan 12, 2007
    I studied Spanish in high school, but my undergrad has a pretty anemic department. I don't want to give it up, but other local colleges aren't much better, and wouldn't be worth it for the transportation/scheduling issues involved.

    I've heard that spending a semester abroad is really the only way to learn a language, and I'd love to do it. However, I'm a prospective science major and cramming in my course requirements wouldn't be the best thing for my education. I wouldn't be giving the topics the attention they deserve, not to mention the effort I'd need to do well on them. Plus, loading up on 3 or 4 science courses would crowd out my psych/philosophy/music interests.

    So: I'm looking for summer volunteering opportunities in Spanish-speaking countries. Volunteering with organizations at home that serve predominantly-hispanic communities is wonderful, and I'm doing that for part of this summer, but it doesn't address my language goals as much as I'd like. I really need to be/want to be forced to speak Spanish...

    Also, it would be great if I could find something involving clinical experience, since I'm figuring out whether I want to be a physician or straight-up PhD and any such experience I could get would help me decide. (But I'm an undergrad--how could I possibly help in a clinical setting?:confused:)

    I'm also looking for a relatively long commitment, since I couldn't possibly make a difference (in the community or in my Spanish!) in 2 weeks; so, something at least 7 weeks? Plus, I might be able to swing grant funding for a longer commitment and not have to wipe out this summer's earnings to pay for a trip next summer.

    Help? I don't even know where to start. There are lots of orgs on the internet, but it's hard to tell if they're reputable. I'm looking for some way to volunteer abroad/get language experience that's more than a fly-in, fly-out thing 2 week thing, maybe something I could do for a couple summers, maybe over winter break too. If anyone could point me toward programs they've done, at least for future ref/next summer, that would be amazing.
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  3. GreenShirt

    GreenShirt 10+ Year Member

    Feb 6, 2007
    You might want to try this organization: International Service Learning ( They go to: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Belize, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Mexico. Although, most of their trips are only 2-3 weeks. I've personally traveled on medical mission trips with them to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Tanzania. We got to do everything from shadowing doctors to observing surgeries to setting up clinics in rural areas and screening villagers for health. If you're interested, feel free to PM me. I've also organized students from my school to go on the trip in addition to my own travels.
  4. fotografía

    fotografía Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    Oct 16, 2005
  5. GoLAClippers

    GoLAClippers Banned Banned

    Feb 26, 2007
    anyone here knows any free ones?
  6. SupergreenMnM

    SupergreenMnM Peanut, not chocolate 2+ Year Member

    Mar 27, 2007
    A lot of reputable NGOs will give you housing and food. In every case I know of you must secure transportation in and out of the country. That makes sense they would waste a lot of money paying a ticket for someone to come do something that a local can do for 1/10000000 the if you don't have any special skills your best bet is for room and board.
  7. Heyeon

    Heyeon Heyeon 5+ Year Member

    Apr 24, 2005

    it is not free though :(

    Why dont u try peacecorps? or dont go through an organization which will save u tons of program fees..U might want to try going there on your own and then volunteering at a clinic by just asking them. I am sure not many will refuse the offer
  8. blue129


    Jan 12, 2007
    thanks for the suggestions, guys.

    Re: just going somewhere on my own (well, with other people, but you know what I mean), perhaps...but I'd have to find someone familiar with the area who'd be going and staying for several weeks...maybe I'll ask the people who organize winter break trips to the DR...? It's something I hadn't thought of.
  9. SupergreenMnM

    SupergreenMnM Peanut, not chocolate 2+ Year Member

    Mar 27, 2007
    Usually not a good idea as you will spend about 1 week of your time there just trying to find someone who will have time to talk to you about their projects, and may take much longer before you have something to do. Figure out an area you want to go to then find NGOs that have current work in that area. Look at what type of work they are doing and if you have some skills you can contribute approach them about working for them once you get there.
  10. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion 10+ Year Member

    Oct 30, 2006 This is Spanish immersion in Guatemala with a lot of volunteer opportunities. It's about $150/week, depending on the option. I'm going this summer, partially based on recommendations I saw here on SDN.

    Also, the town where Pop-Wuj is, Xela (Quetzaltenango), is an epicenter of volunteer activity. If you're confident and independent you could easily do a roll-your-own program.

    I've also done ISL, and I know several people who did extension programs for 2-3 months. Expensive, but as others said, the hands-on experience with patients is wonderful.

    Best of luck to you.
  11. Neelesh

    Neelesh 7+ Year Member

    Nov 30, 2006
    Did you do the medical mission? Because on the website it says they like healthcare professionals.
  12. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel 5+ Year Member

    Feb 24, 2005
    I went to Ecuador with CFHI ( and spent a month in Ecuador. It's a little bit expensive, although not as expensive as some. Basically, you spend a couple of hours a day taking Spanish classes (tailored to your Spanish needs - if you are already fluent in Spanish they would teach you mostly medical Spanish, if you're not fluent then they'd work on grammar, etc). Then you'd also spend about 4 hours per day shadowing doctors. They have a variety of different programs, I did the one in Quito, where I shadowed a doctor in a different specialty each week, but they have community based programs, etc. It's not really volunteering, but it's good exposure to both patients and medical Spanish. And you live with a Spanish-speaking family, so you can practice a lot of your language skills with them as well.
  13. Amemus

    Amemus 7+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2006
    Have you considered volunteering at a free clinic in the US? It would be a lot easier to arrange and less expensive. A lot of free clinics serve mostly Spanish speakers. If you can speak Spanish, you'll be able to get a much better clinical experience than if you just did a normal volunteer job because you'll be asked to interpret a lot.
  14. travelingdoc

    travelingdoc 5+ Year Member

    Apr 17, 2007
    Google Bairo Pite Clinic in East Timor. I was there last summer (during all the political and civil troubles) working at refugee camps and at the clinic itself, which is the largest clinic in the country. It is run by Dr. Dan, who graduated from Iowa some 30 years ago and then went there for med school. He's interesting, to say the least, but with the number of volunteers that go through the clinic, and NGO folks to network with, you have a win-win situation. Plus, there was a ton of clinical experience that made the time there that much better. PM me if you want more info, but I'm kind of new to SDN, so bear with me!
  15. Because maybe they would rather not wind up digging wells in Africa for two years?
  16. Sounds like something that would get you arrested upon your arrival back in the US...... :laugh:

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