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International Programs Student Trip Reports
In keeping with Texas A&M’s Vision 2020 objective of graduating students with a global perspective based on global experiences, the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences provides a limited number of travel stipends to students to help them gain international work/study experiences. The following travel reports give an overview of what our students learned while living, working, and studying abroad.
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Ecuador - Rebecca Hoffschwelle

Ecuador - Rebecca Hoffschwelle

I am currently pursuing a degree in Biomedical Science as well as a BIMS International Certificate in Cultural Competency and Communication in Spanish. In addition to certain classes and shadowing hours, this certification requires at least nine days abroad in a Spanish-speaking country.  Through an organization called UBELONG, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a medical volunteer in Ecuador for thirty days.

During my time in Ecuador, I lived outside the small, coastal town of Muisne on the Congal Forest Reserve.  Most days, I traveled either to Muisne to work in the hospital or to Cabo (another small town) to work in the clinic.  My duties varied from day to day, but generally consisted of some combination of running biochemical tests on urine and blood samples, taking vital signs (such as blood pressure, height, and weight), and observing and assisting with patient examinations.  I saw cases that were a fascinating mixture of those similar to cases common in the US and those that were unlike anything I had seen before.  Each day was a new adventure and learning experience as I learned more Spanish words, local procedures, and cultural values. With the guidance and encouragement of local medical professionals, I gained experience assisting with stitches, performing exams, and drawing blood. I also went on a health brigade one weekend to a small village where we saw sick patients, gave vaccinations and examinations, filled a cavity, and taught children how to brush their teeth.  Seeing how happy and grateful they were that we had come to their village made it well worth the perilous rickshaw ride down a bumpy dirt road.

Rebecca HoffswelleIn addition to focusing on medicine, I was also able to explore some of Ecuador during my free time.  I saw some amazing beaches, went deep sea fishing, managed to become very lost while using the public transportation system in Quito, and saw the president of Ecuador. Each Saturday, President Correa visits a different town, and during one of the weeks that I was there, he came to Muisne. It was exhilarating to share in the excitement as the whole town gathered at the beach to hear him speak.

I did not realize how bittersweet leaving Ecuador would be until that time came.  Everything about this trip blew my expectations out of the water.  The country was more beautiful, my experiences and work were more rewarding, and most of all the people were even more incredible than I had hoped.  My friends in the hospital and reserve asked me if I was going to come back to Ecuador, and without even thinking, I told them that I would.  I want to continue to give back to the people who were so welcoming and gave me so much knowledge and joy in a mere thirty days.



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