It is hard to believe that it has already been nearly a year since my last adventure and it’s quite remarkable all that has occurred between then and now. Just last August, I was getting ready to meet all of my new classmates and begin medical school. Now, they’re practically family as we ventured through the ups and downs of our first year of medical school together! We finished up the year on Thursday when our last official summer began. Unfortunately it seems as if this will be the last of the abroad adventures for quite a few years so I’m certainly going to make the most of it!
This past year I became quite involved in an organization called Project CURA (Creighton United in Relief Assistance). CURA is a student run organization that sends Creighton medical students on 4-5 week service trips during the summer after our first year. This year there are 8 CURA groups traveling all over the world to Ecuador, Ghana (2), Guatemala, India (2), Romania and Southeast Asia (Vietnam and Cambodia). CURA also sends a group of students to Pine Ridge, an Indian reservation in South Dakota, during spring break. This year, nearly 60 students are participating to serve in both medically-related and non medically-related service. I am certainly excited to hear about all of the experiences post-trip!
Once the groups are decided in early October, planning begins immediately! There is a designated trip leader that essentially takes on the responsibility of planning a trip for 4-10 people… while still balancing medical school! All of the details from the dates to the organizations that the students will be working with to lodging and transportation are planned by the students. Many of the trips have built relationships with organizations abroad and go back year after year but some groups start from scratch. There is definitely A LOT of planning that goes into each of the trips!!
Although the “main event” is the trip abroad, there is a lot that goes into CURA as well throughout the year. While some students are very well traveled, others are going abroad for the first time so we try to prepare everyone for the trip through cultural immersion and clinical skills workshops, local service work, global health talks, ethics talks, retreats, a send-off ceremony and reflection (very Creighton-esk!). We do a few CURA-wide fundraisers and trip-specific fundraisers throughout the year as CURA is completely student-funded (which really just means MORE and MORE debt… but it is certainly worth it!). Our main fundraiser, Savor the Flavor, took place in March and the night consisted of a cocktail hour, buffet dinner, a presentation, and a silent auction. The buffet featured appetizers, main dishes, and desserts from each of the countries we were visiting… and made from scratch by the students themselves! Each group also made a poster about their trip and were able to explain everything that they would be doing abroad! This year we had more than 80 auction items and 200 people attend… the event turned out great! CURA members are also involved in service around Omaha. We visited many local schools and set up a learning opportunity for kids of all ages. Some stations taught about basic geography and where we would be visiting around the world.. the students were mesmerized that we could go that far! We prepared some questions for them including questions like how long does it take to fly from Omaha, Nebraska to India… some of the answers were great as they ranged from an hour to a month, ha! Other stations included basic information on public health, vaccinations, and healthy living.
I served as Vice President of he organization so much of my “free time” from studying was spent working on CURA-related things. From the constant communication between the members, the board, and the faculty to overseeing all of the events throughout the year to helping trip leaders and looking over itineraries to the other countless tasks, CURA was a HUGE part of my first year of medical school… and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything! I got to work with an AWESOME group of fellow students and get to know some better than I otherwise would have. It was an incredibly rewarding position as well as you see so much develop throughout the year. But for now, most of the work-aspect of CURA is being out on hold as I get to partake in these incredible weeks to come!
For anyone that knows me, you’re likely aware of my love for Africa… so it might surprise you that I’m actually heading to Southeast Asia! Of course with it being the last summer ever, I wasn’t about to pass up extra time abroad exploring and unfortunately being a single, 22 year old female traveling through Western Africa might not be the safest situation to be in. So, I opted for Southeast Asia… and I am so excited for the experiences and adventures ahead! My group consists of four people including myself, Eddie (trip leader), Peter, and Laura. It has been wonderful getting to know my group throughout the year through various events and bonding time and we got extremely lucky in that we all get along very well… talk to us after the 4 1/2 weeks together and the thought might be a little different… haha, just kidding!! I’ll explain in much greater detail later but the basics of the trip is that we are flying into Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam where we are volunteers in an orphanage for about a week before heading to Cambodia for a bit of medical-related service. Then I will be heading off on my own to explore Thailand and Laos for about a month!
As I mentioned, we finished with our neuro final on Thursday and had a solid day-and-a-half to pack and get ready to leave! When looking for tickets, we found a very cheap flight out to San Francisco but it happened two days prior to our international flight so Eddie, Peter, and I are heading out to see a bit of the city before we meet up with Laura and head abroad!
I wish all of you a wonderful summer!! Stay tuned for MANY adventures to come!