The final class for Team Zambia was scheduled for Tuesday June 4 at 9:30am. I prepared the very detailed course evaluations and took them to class.
We began our discussions and students again had very thoughtful things to say:
- Our team is connected together due to this trip; it is almost therapeutic to be able to talk to each other about it
- However it is hard to talk to others about it because it is impossible to explain the depth and breadth of everything that we experienced, learned, observed, and how it is different from anything else we have experienced or observed before
- There was a general feeling that no matter how much we tried to explain people would never really understand the full extent of the trip and program, and that there were no words that would do justice to explaining the experiences
- It is impossible to pick a “favorite” part of the trip, because each day had new experiences and each day was one of the “coolest days of my life”
- This program was very different from many other study abroad programs because it had very different goals and a very large service component
- The team is a connected group and all became friends, and this too poses a challenge when talking to family as they do not know the rest of the group
- Students feel they have changed due to this trip, and are also still processing everything that they learned and experienced
- They all commented on how they gained confidence and skills over the two weeks, starting timid and tentative and gaining a lot of independence in working with children towards the end of the program
- They remembered when they were accepted into the program and how excited and nervous they were
- They said they started the program with zero expectations and that was a good thing because they just took each day as it came and soaked in whatever they could learn each day
- Even though we (the instructors) had tried to explain some of the settings, just as they are having difficulty explaining to their families, I don’t think we could ever explain Zambia (or any other country, e.g. India) to them in words – you have to experience it to understand
- They have a different world view and different perspective after this trip
- Some experienced reverse culture shock – upon re-entry to the US
- They felt that this program and the activities they engaged in reassured them that they have chosen the right major
- They mentioned that at the beginning of the program they felt like “impostors” because they were introduced as the experts in hearing, when actually many of them have never really seen patients before
- They learned to appear confident, and not be terrified (or show that they are terrified) when engaging in a new clinical skill
- They appreciated the trust and confidence we (the instructors) had in their ability to perform clinical tasks
- They worked really well as a team, recognizing each others’ strengths and supporting each other
- They also learned a lot about themselves through this experience, because the nightly discussions were a “safe” place to talk about their feelings, and it was OK to share thoughts
- They appreciated the magnitude of the tasks they did in a short amount of time: 450 patients total seen in two weeks, something that in the US during their graduate program will take much longer to see that many patients with that variety of ear problems
- Finally, Jenn and I shared with them what an awesome group of students they are! Right from Day 1, they got along really well, supported each other, never complained, never were critical of each other, showed amazing adaptability and flexibility, and in general impressed us tremendously and were a big part in making this program such a success
- SO – thanks to the 12 students in Team Zambia and time to give yourselves a pat on the back!
When the discussion ended, I was in for a big surprise, and Jenn seemed to know what was going on (i.e. I was the only one wondering what was happening). We trooped into the classroom next door and Jenn set up the projector. I was overwhelmed to see that she and the students had put together a video thanking me for putting together the program! I was moved to tears as I am now again just typing this. As I said in one of my posts prior to departure, SLHS in Zambia had become my LIFE for several months. The amount of time, energy and effort I put into the planning this program cannot be measured and I was immensely touched by this act of kindness acknowledging my efforts. I was speechless and words cannot express my heartfelt thanks to each team member. The success of the program was definitely due to the entire team as well as all our community partners in Zambia – so my heartfelt thanks go out to each and everyone involved in this program!
To top it off – even more icing on the cake – the students had made a plaque to give Jenn and me and also another slide show on CD for us. What a lovely gesture. THANK YOU ALL so much!
We went outside on this beautiful day and took yet another team photo. And a reporter from the local newspaper (the Lafayette Journal and Courier) attended part of our meeting and interviewed a few students, so we are expecting an article later this week – watch the paper!