Anna Chiang from University of California, Berkeley, joined our Physician’s Assistant internship in Cusco, Peru, for a duration of 6 weeks. Learn more about how Anna provided health and medical support in a local clinic, adapted to life in Peru, and her advice for future interns.
Tell us about your experience as Physician’s Assistant intern in Peru!
During my internship in Peru, I worked from Monday through Friday at a local clinic in Cusco. I shadowed a general practitioner from 8am to anytime between 12-1 pm. During this time, I was able to see the doctor give consultations and medical advice, as well as diagnose different ailments and prescribe treatments. I filled out prescriptions, hospital reference sheets, and lab orders, as instructed. I also recorded the summary of each patient’s visit, as the clinic keeps paper records. When I worked with admissions or triage, I helped to take height, weight, and blood pressure.
How did this medical internship benefit you?
I think I was really able to grow professionally during my internship in Peru. I feel more empowered to be successful in my field – being able to shadow doctors at the local clinic helped me realize that this is really what I want to do in the future. Getting first-hand medical experience and getting to interact with the doctors was such a special experience, and I feel so lucky that I was able to have it. Gaining experience allowed me to feel even more passionate about the medical field and the prospect of being a paediatrician.
How did you find the first week of your internship?
I think my experience during my first week was actually smoother than what I originally anticipated. At first, I was very nervous, especially because I was aware that my Spanish definitely needed some brushing up on, but after being in the environment for over a week, I felt my language skills coming back to me. Also, the host family were absolutely wonderful and understanding, which also aided in my transition to a completely new country. I’m glad to say that I felt like I slowly hit my stride and became more accustomed to the surroundings, while steadily familiarizing myself with my Physician’s Assistant internship workplace. The activities of the first week with the other interns was amazing and it was absolutely wonderful to meet people from all over the world!
How did you overcome the language barrier?
Although I have taken five years of Spanish, I am not fluent and remain only conversational. I think I expected to encounter communication challenges, but sometimes it can be very frustrating to me when I misinterpret things. To overcome this, I used a lot of body language, non-verbal communication, and translators (whether on my phone or pocket dictionary). I also found that it helped me a lot when I asked someone to repeat something slower, so that my brain could process it well.
Is there anything you could have done to better prepare?
I do not think that I had many preconceptions about Cusco before arriving, because I did not really have a clear expectation of what interning in Cusco would be like. I think one stereotype that my first week in Cusco debunked, is that it is safer than I thought it would be. I think that the initial challenge of getting here and settling in was inevitable, and also that it is improbable that I could’ve actively done anything to prevent it - there are always new lessons to be learned when in a completely new environment. In this case, it is more of a mental preparation type scenario. Other, smaller challenges, things like not drinking tap water (for which I brought an electric kettle and a filter) and a lack of heaters, are more along the lines of obstacles that I thought about and prepared for before my trip. That being said, I think the best thing that anyone can do is to maintain a positive and open-minded attitude!
What were the most memorable moments of your internship?
I have had a couple of very memorable moments! The first one would probably be my first day of the internship, and just seeing how healthcare is in Peru at a local clinic. The second one would be Nico’s birthday party – Nico was the four-year-old grandson of my host mom, and it was so neat to be able to be a part of a casual, traditional celebration like a birthday party. Being able to talk with other people from Cusco (outside of my immediate host family, clinic, and other interns) was a really nice change of pace and a good opportunity to practice colloquial Spanish. It was one of the events that took me by surprise in that it really helped me feel comfortable in my host family and by extension, Peru. Although it was not anything extraordinarily unique like all the tourist destinations near Cusco or anything professionally significant like interning in the local clinic, it is a memory that I will really treasure in years to come. Last, but definitely not least, a favorite memory was Corpus Christi, which is an impressive fiesta (held sixty days after Easter Sunday) with colourful religious precessions to observe. The entire experience was incredible - the hordes of people at Plaza de Armas and Plaza de San Francisco, trying Chiriuchu, and just watching all the festivities going on!
What advice would you have for future international interns?
The entire process of adapting is different for everyone, but I think it is really valuable to maintain flexible in your expectations of the internship and the environment. In retrospect, I would say that being unsure initially of what to expect at the internship is perfectly normal, but that I would put an emphasis on taking things in stride and just going along with the flow, which is a part of the entire experience and adaptation in a foreign environment. I would tell the person beginning an internship to take advantage of the environment and do their best to absorb information. There is a lot to learn about cultures and values no matter where you are from in the world, and the key is to remain open-minded. There is a lot of knowledge and experience to gain, and I think keeping that in mind will also be a crucial part of the learning process!
Medical internships in Cusco are available year-round and are offered in conjunction with Intern Abroad HQ’s experiential learning curriculum, which is focused on resume building, personal and professional development. You can learn more about interning in Peru through our Q & A blog. Looking for something a little different? Explore diverse internships related to Healthcare and Special Needs.