I was having second thoughts about doing this project. It was far from New York (19 hour flight,) it was a whole new culture, and I had no experience traveling outside the country. But after reading the blogs of past volunteers, I felt confident enough to take on the challenge.
I got to Vietnam and was picked up at the airport, had orientation and the story of my time at the Medical Placement in Ho Chin Minh began. I was able to start participating right from the very first day. The other volunteers and I prepared medications and checked the blood pressure of many patients. I was lucky enough to be able to see sixteen surgeries in my three weeks there. They ranged from hip replacement, to skin grafting, to tibia surgeries to amputations and more! I was standing right beside the surgeons while they performed the surgery. I was placed in the X-Ray room, acupuncture room, and OT room on different days. My favorite was acupuncture. I was able to help the nurses in their daily rounds; giving injections and medications and setting up IV’s. All of these skills were learned right at the placement site. Our assistance was really beneficial to the nurses in their daily jobs.
The project coordinator at the placement site was very knowledgeable and his English was really clear. He sounded almost like a native speaker. He was familiar with many medical procedures and with the history of the hospital. He coordinated with the nurses and other hospital staff to ensure that they were willing to give us chances to do things ourselves; to get hands-on experience. I was able to give injections; mix medications using syringes, and clean different degrees of wounds, such as motorbike accident wounds, amputated leg wounds, etc.
My favorite was the fun outside the placement site. Ho Chi Minh is a really beautiful city. It has very interesting and beautiful places to visit. You should definitely take a cruise to Halong Bay and visit one of the seven wonders of nature. Cu Chi Tunnels, Mekong Delta, Suotien amusement park, the zoos, the War Remnant Museum, and the Benthan Market are a few places to visit. There are amazing shows like water puppet shows and Ted Har (at the Saigon Opera House). I met amazing people on the project from all around the world: Australia, UK, Scotland, Hong Kong and other parts of the United States. The experience that you get from being exposed to different, international cultures is really rewarding. I made several friends there as well. The food in Vietnam is really good. It took some time to get re-adjusted to food in New York when I returned home. The food in Vietnam is also very affordable.
Long story short, this has been one of the most amazing experiences in my life. I am definitely coming back there to visit or for a vacation. If you are having doubts, just trust me and book your trip. Although life there won’t be perfect like how you’re used to in your home country, you’ll come to appreciate and still love the life over there. You’ll learn a lot at the hospital, make some good friends, and have fun.