The Gambia

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Raisa Rauf, COL ’19

Even now when I look at a world map, it astonishes me that I lived The Gambia. Sitting in class and learning about global health was one thing; it was a completely different platform experiencing it first hand.

From the moment I landed up until the minute I got on the return flight, I learned new things, ate different foods, delved into Gambian culture, made new friends and formulated memories that would last a lifetime.  I wore African dresses and learned to cook Gambian dishes (Benechin is my favorite!). I had the opportunity to learn about a culture that I might have never learned about. This experience opened my eyes to another world, a world that, although is different from mine, is also very similar. I feel so lucky to have this experience; it truly has shaped my identity and increased my cultural awareness. The world is becoming smaller with the aid of technology, and I believe it is the duty of a global citizen to learn about the cultures that make it up. This experience is a step forward toward fulfilling that duty.

Aside from the cultural experiences I had, this opportunity shaped my academic goals. Prior to going to The Gambia, I knew that I wanted to do something in global health, but I was unsure. What is it like? What are the challenges? What are those on the ground experiencing? How do clinicians in developing nations cope with limited resources? These are questions that I asked myself constantly, but regardless of the readings I would do, I always felt that I was missing something. But my time in Bwiam General Hospital answered my burning questions, and I finally knew, absolutely, what I wanted to do with my life: pursue medicine and provide medical care for those in need in developing nations. I knew this because I fell in love with the work. I marveled at the way procedures were conducted, awed by the doctor’s commitment to caring for patients 24/7, and inspired by watching how clinicians gave the best care with limited resources.

This opportunity has broadened my worldly experience, made me better equipped in engaging with global health scholars, exposed me to the challenges that third world nations face in regards to health care and strengthened my belief that the same solution cannot be applied everywhere (rather, it is extremely important to tailor solutions to the environment and society). And none of this would have been possible if I had not received funding. I have always believed that money should not hinder one from achieving their dreams, but I accepted this as a sad reality for myself; I certainly could not afford a plane ticket, and all the other costs of living. Hence, the funding I received was a game changer for me. It opened doors for me that would have otherwise remained shut for the rest of my life, and I cannot appreciate it enough. Thank you for blessing me with this opportunity.

Author: Student Perspective

Views and opinions from current Penn students.