Rahul Mehta spent a few months volunteering with Proyecto Peru and created many bonds with our staff and other volunteers. Here’s his story!
I was lucky enough to spend my fall 2018 semester in Cusco, Peru doing a medical internship. When I began to look for global internship placements, my number one priority was to end up in a country that I would most likely not choose to vacation in. When it comes to vacations, I most definitely am a beach person, but Peru is really all about the culture, the land, and experiencing nature. With my top priority met, I decided to take the plunge and go for it. Initially, I was super excited to experience an entirely new culture and country. Then, I realized what I had just done. I had just agreed to travel to a country I had never been to before where I did not speak or understand the language, completely by myself. To top it all off, my accommodation in Cusco was with a local family in a homestay, who also spoke only Spanish. For reference, the last time I had taken Spanish was seven years ago, so I’m sure you can understand why I had started to panic. Even still, I went into the experience with a positive attitude and open mind, and sitting here now back at home, I can honestly say it was truly the best experience.
In Cusco, my day to day consisted of working at the Siete Cuartones health clinic in the mornings, which left me plenty of time to explore Cusco in the afternoons. On my first day at the clinic, I was assigned to an office from which I would shadow whichever doctor was in the room for that day. While I was definitely still nervous about having to speak Spanish, I thankfully had spent the previous week taking Spanish lessons at Proyecto Peru and felt somewhat confident in my abilities to get by with the basics. When the doctor first started speaking to me, I really only felt comfortable using nonverbal responses. However, as the hours passed, I slowly started to feel more comfortable, so I began to respond with actual words. How groundbreaking. After just filing and organizing paperwork on the first day, things really picked up. Within a few days, I was learning how to check someone’s throat for inflammation, how to listen to someone’s breathing, and even how to write a prescription. While these are basic skills, I was still excited that I was learning anything at all about the field that I want to go into. As the days passed, I was given more responsibility and allowed more autonomy within the clinic. It was really great to be able to form a close bond with not only the doctors, but also with some of the recurring patients.
Outside of the clinic, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Peru. While I was primarily in Cusco during the weekdays, I would frequently take trips over the weekends. During the semester, I got to see: Rainbow Mountain, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Paracas (poor man’s Galapagos and National Reserve), Huacachina (dessert oasis), the Nazca lines, Arequipa, Lima, and of course, most of Cusco. While doing all of this, I also formed some really great friendships with people from all over the world.
Overall, my time in Cusco was literally amazing. I loved working at the clinic, as it taught me basic clinical skills, Spanish, and more about healthcare in South America than I could ever learn from a textbook. I also loved my homestay family, my friends, and the overall experience. I truly do miss Peru, and I can’t wait to go back sometime in the future.
We will definitely miss Rahul and his bubbly personality! If you’re interested in a volunteer or having an internship in Peru, check our projects!