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GEMx Elective Reflections – Student Exchange from Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia to University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Filed under: GEMx Global Network, GEMx Student Reflections

Post by Navilah Hidayati, Medical Student at Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia) who completed a GEMx Elective in Elective in General Surgery at the University of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates)

Navilah Hidayati, Medical Student at Universitas Gadjah Mada
What have you gained from this exchange experience offered through GEMx?  What were the benefits?

I gained many unforgettable experiences, global connections, and lovely friends from this exchange experience. I met a lot of people in the hospital and learn about the international hospital dynamic there. I observed the medical students activity in the University and learn some good habits they have. I visited the beautiful tourism in Dubai and Sharjah. I tasted the traditional food, which has a very unique and strong flavor. I also had the chance to learn some Arabic language and enjoy their culture.

How did you prepare for your elective exchange? Were you prepared?

To be honest, I was not sure that I will be able to go for this exchange. I had some trouble with my post-acceptance documents. The problem became more complicated because I couldn’t contact the representative in the host university.

Fortunately, GEMx staffs also helped me to get in touch with her. About 2 weeks before my departure I received my acceptance letter. Ten days later, they sent me my visa. My parent bought my airplane ticket two days before the elective started and I was able to go to Sharjah to do my elective training. Only when I sat in the airplane that I thought,

“Ah, so I am going to do this..”

What did you learn from this experience both personally and professionally?  (consider your clinical experience, community experience, cultural experience, communications and interactions with faculty, staff, peers, and patient population)

Truthfully, I didn’t get many chances to improve my clinical skills in my host university. I had some trouble with the placement in the university hospital. I was glad that my supervisor, Ms. Eman and Prof. Nabil, take care of the problems quickly and I can start my elective training on the second week. I had one week in Pediatric, one week in Internal Medicine, and one week in Surgery. This actually different from what was written in my acceptance letter. I supposed to go to the General Surgery department for four weeks. I need to adapt every week in the different department. I also went to two different hospitals that have different regulations. Because of it, I barely had the chance to perform clinical skills on patients. But thankfully, the doctors were so active and always told me about the patient conditions. They also like to discussed some cases, which enhanced my clinical reasoning skills. The patients in the hospital was mostly Arabic, so sometimes I had trouble communication because I didn’t understand their language. When I faced this problem, my friends and the doctors helped me out. The staff in the hospital also very kind to me. Most of the nurses came from outside the UAE so they understand English. We sometimes had a chat on break time.

Apart from that, I had a beautiful experience with the University of Sharjah, the people living in the UAE, and their genuine Arabic culture.

How did you feel when you returned to your home school?

The first thing that came to my mind was I cannot believe it is already over. Everything ends so quickly. On my last day in Sharjah I had a very busy schedule. I need to take care of documents before leaving for my home town. Time flew so fast I didn’t realize it was already evening and I had to say good bye quickly to my dorm-mate.

The next day, I arrived in Indonesia. I had a short five days break before come back to my home school and do my clinical rotation. It felt so weird that time. It  seemed like my heart is left in my host school.

Can you share your story on this experience and how it has impacted you?  Were there any unexpected outcomes that you would like to share?

This experience is one of the most unexpected experiences I have ever had. I didn’t have the chance to see a lot of procedure that I think I will, but to tell the truth I gained so much more than that. I learn to deal with people (the patient, the hospital and university staff, my colleague). I learn to adapt with any given situation. I learn to understand every perspective. I learn to solve my problem independently. I learn to be brave, honest, patient, and wise. When I came back to Indonesia a lot of people said that it such a pity that the elective didn’t go as I expected it to be, but I don’t think so.

I am happy with my experience and it teaches me beyond the procedural thing.

Is there anything you would recommend to students who are planning to go to this university for an elective?

I will tell them this.

First, make sure that you can get in touch with the supervisor in the university at least one month before your elective begun. Second, make sure that you already have a place in the teaching hospital, so when you get there you are ready to start. Watch the weather when you will do your elective training, and bring some necessary clothes. Foods in UAE are expensive, so it is better if you know how to cook or bring some ready-to-eat food from your country.

On the first day, you should be active asking your supervisor in the faculty and the dorm about the regulations. You should understand and follow the rules if you don’t want to get in trouble later. You cannot go as you like, so if you want to go make sure your dorm and faculty supervisor know.

Aside of that, people in UAE are very welcome and nice. Don’t just study all the time, make time to go out and enjoy some tourism attraction around Dubai and Sharjah 🙂

Were there any faculty, students, or administrators from your home or host school that helped you prepare for your trip – before, during, or after your experience?

Yes, I would like to convey my greatest gratitude to Ms. Eman. She helped me a lot before, during, and after my elective training. She helped me with my visa, my documents, and my medical record. She arranged my stay in the dorm and my transportation from and to the airport. She helped me when I was having trouble with the placement. For the time I was in Sharjah, she was like a big sister to me.

What advice would you give to students who are planning to go on an elective exchange?

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Not only the physical things, but also prepare for the worst. Have a big heart and enjoy everything you had. Wake up in the morning with a big smile and tell yourself to always be happy. Everything will be fine if you enjoy and do it happily 🙂

Is there anything else that you would like to share that you think would be helpful in evaluating this exchange program?

I want to know if GEMx have an alumni program/association. It will be better if we could share and learn from other students. We can also spread the GEMx info better with the diverse connections. If there is anything I could do, I will be glad to help 🙂

Would you recommend this exchange program to other students where you studied? Why?

Yes. Doing exchange program abroad is a very valuable experience for every student. We can learn about communication with a completely different population. We can learn the medical curriculum and health system from another country. We can also broaden our connection with people around the globe.

It is indeed an unforgettable experience 🙂

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