While abroad, my goal was to better understand how dentistry is practiced in the Dominican Republic. My program was specific to community public health with a main focus in general medicine. So, how exactly do you explore dentistry in a program designed for people interested in medicine?
What I did:
Not surprisingly, it came down to communication. It sounds cliche and simple, but how many times do we leave a situation feeling empty because we were seeking more from it? In my case, speaking with the program coordinators to express my desire for wanting to be exposed to the field of dentistry, is how I made sure I wouldn’t leave the situation feeling empty. Most importantly, I was blunt with the request. I offered ideas as to how to make it work with the weekly schedule we had. From here, we worked together to build a schedule where I could spend time with dental professionals, instead of other health fields.
Additionally, this allowed the program coordinators to help integrate my interests every chance we had. The photo above was from a community health fair that was put on by our program. Here I spoke with kids about the importance of oral hygiene. The oral health station would have been left out if it wasn’t for voicing the need and interest of the station. Speaking out is truly how and why I was able to make the program cater to what I was looking for.
What YOU should do:
It is important to remember that your experience is highly dependent on yourself. Of course, you cannot control every outcome of your experience. However, you have the autonomy to influence what those outcomes look like. To recognize the gaps of the program you are participating in and remain silent, is a great disservice to yourself. Make the experience yours! It isn’t enough to share your expectations with your study abroad group one time. You must remind people of what you are trying to learn and accomplish abroad. This will help them better help you!
The mentality that you are entering a new country where none of your “first-world” interests and vocational plans could possibly exist in developing countries is wrong. The chance to expand your understanding and knowledge of your own aspirations is endless. No matter what program you decide to participate in, always look for ways to interconnect what you are about to what the program is about. That is how you make your experience yours.