By: Beatrix Yuan,
“I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I’m old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.”
When I grow old, I will hop on a plane to Ifakara, Tanzania, and to dig up that pot of gold that I buried in the summer of 2017. Thanks to Dalhousie Global Health Office and Universities Canada, I was very fortunate and beyond honoured to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship to work at Tanzania Training Centre for International Health (TTCIH) as a student intern. Through this experience, I learned a lot about Tanzanian culture, about conducting academic research in an international research team, and about myself and my future career goals.
Professional and academic growth
The goal of my internship at TTCIH was to learn about qualitative data analysis through working on the Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) transcripts for the Access to Save Delivery In Tanzania (ASDIT) project. Dalhousie University researchers collaborate with partners from the
TTCIH and other local institutions, explore the challenges that women face when try to access quality obstetric care in rural Tanzania. Through this work experience, I gained deeper understanding on the health systems in Tanzania, the benefits and challenges of conducting global health research, as well as efficient communication strategies among different stakeholders in international settings.
Thanks to the local institutes’ hospitality, I was also able to visit several nearby organizations including Ifakara Health Institute, the Kilombero District Health Centre and St. Francis Referral Hospital. I was especially amazed by the work conducted by the One-Stop
Clinic at St. Francis Referral Hospital. The One-Stop Clinic offers comprehensive health services to families that are affected by HIV/AIDS. These services include free HIV/AIDS testing, counselling services, informational sessions on HIV/AIDS, and community outreach services.
Personal growth-a humbling experience
This working-abroad experience also drastically helped me with my personal growth. It forced me to leave my comfort zone and to connect with friends from all over the world. As a Chinese immigrant in Canada, I have always been self-conscious about my English not being my first language, and this self-consciousness often makes shy away from connecting with others. Through this experience, I understood that language proficiency is not a deal-breaker; as long as I treat people with kindness and an open-heart, people will always accept me for who I am. I appreciate all the amazing people with different backgrounds that I made real connections with in Tanzania. Learning about their interesting life experience was very inspiring and humbling.
While most people consider living in a resource-limited setting a challenge, I considered it a blessing. I appreciated that I finally got the chance to take a break from all my electronic devices and be a more compassionate person and a caring friend. Without having to constantly check my smartphone and laptop for news that were happening thousands of miles away, I learned to be attentive to the present moment. During weekends, I would go for hiking and bike rides with friends. One of the most exciting things that I did was going on my very first Safari trip at the Ruaha National Park. We saw many animals that we were only able to see in movies, like elephants, giraffes, monkeys and lions. At one point, a leopard were only 3 feet away from our vehicle!
Reverse culture shock is a real thing
Reverse culture shock hit me harder than I expected. Although I have been back in Canada for over three months, I still miss Ifakara and all the friends that I met there. I miss the simple things like buying groceries from farmers that I made friends with and going for mishkaki (barbeque meat) on the side of the streets. I cannot express my appreciation enough to Dalhousie Global Health Office and Universities Canada, for giving me this life-altering experience to work in Tanzania as a student intern for a summer.
To learn more about the Global Health Office please visit our website.
To learn more about the Queen Elizabeth Scholars program please visit the Dalhousie QES website.