July 19, 2012 | 1 Comment
BUIES CREEK - Junior Kendra Batie is a year away from what she hopes is medical school … ideally, she’d love to be part of the first freshman class of Campbell University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine.
If she succeeds, one thing she’ll have on her side is experience, thanks to a monthlong trip to Tanzania, Africa, where Batie and eight other students watched up close while doctors performed surgeries and treated illnesses a half a world away from their friendly confines of their homes.
Batie and her classmates were joined by two Campbell professors as part of the University’s Study Abroad Program, which sends students to all parts of the world to explore, discover and - most importantly - learn not only about their future professions, but about other cultures as well.
A rising senior from Monroe studying biology, Batie said she’d always wanted to visit Africa, and the fact that this Study Abroad trip had a health sciences focus (English and criminal justice majors tend to visit the United Kingdom, arts and religion majors lean toward Italy) made it all the more attractive.
“Africa, to me, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “Hopefully I can go back one day, but to be able to go and have the experiences we had … it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Tanzania, an important African seaport state, is full of history, as it’s one of the oldest inhabited areas on earth. Geographically, it’s gorgeous - home to the world-famous Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest point.
Most importantly for the students, it’s the home of the SHED (Shirati Health Education and Development) Foundation, a program hosted by American doctor Esther Lehman Kawira, who’s been in Tanzania for 23-plus years. Each morning, the Campbell students would have breakfast with Dr. Kawira and then follow her to her clinic, where she would speak Swahili to her patients and translate everything said in English to her students.
“She’d see quite a few patients in a day, people needing everything from a syphilis or HIV test to tests for parasitic worms,” Batie said.
For two days, they worked with an Ob/Gyn and watched doctors perform hysterectomies and other surgeries. They watched as two patients learned they were HIV positive … a diagnosis far more common still in Africa than in the U.S.
Not all of it was pleasant, but the experience as a whole was fascinating, Batie said.
“It helped me appreciate the fact that our health care system is so advanced,” she said. “We watched as one woman had a polyp removed … had the Ob/Gyn not been in town that day, God only knows how long she would have had to wait. Tanzania doesn’t lack the hospitals, but the specialists aren’t always around. So you really come away appreciating what we have here at home.”
It wasn’t all work for the students, accompanied by Campbell associate professors Dr. Debora Weaver and Dr. Michelle Thomas. Batie said she took in much of the sights and learned as much of the culture as she could. She was surprised of how modern Tanzania was as she expected a “poorer, sadder” part of the world.
“Their way of life might be considered ‘poverty’ here, but they don’t consider it poverty,” she said. “A tin roof there symbolizes wealth. They value family, children and farming … one lady raised her chickens like dogs and called them her children. Everyone I came across was friendly and very interested in why we were there. It was awesome.”
Those experiences are the goal of the Study Abroad Program, according to director Dr. Donna Waldron, who taught English for two years in Japan and still frequently travels during her summers.
“Travel exposes these students to new cultures,” she said. “The Study Abroad Program allows them to learn a great deal of self reliance … they can handle situations that are truly foreign to them. I think students who’ve gone abroad and come back tend to be more comfortable in job interviews or in the workplace. A lot of the learning on these trips is intrinsic.”
Batie said she wants to work for programs like Doctors Without Borders one day. In Africa, she saw doctors treat patients and often give them home … inspiring in her a sense of confidence that she’s chosen the right career path.
“I’d tell students who haven’t done this or haven’t considered Study Abroad to do it,” Batie said. “It’s expensive and it’s a month of your life. But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Going to Africa was a big deal for me and my family.”
Financial aid is available for students considering Campbell’s Study Abroad Program. To learn more, visit the Study Abroad website.
Photos by Kendra Batie | Story by Billy Liggett