“Summer internship” is a loaded phrase; its contrasting connotations blend splendidly together – especially under the umbrella of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) organization.
As mentioned in my previous blogs, I’m participating in the DRCLAS Summer Internship Program (SIP) for the majority of my jam-packed summer. The first week oriented the 13 participating students in Peruvian history, culture, and safety which essentially tried to eradicate our touristy characteristics (i.e. taking group photos in front of ALL churro stands) – whether or not these efforts were futile is still vehemently debated to this day. Orientation week ended with a cocktail mixer with our bosses.
The program felt surreal up until the moments we awaited for our bosses to arrive. Most of us, at this point, never had personal contact with our bosses and had no idea what we would be doing for the next 7 weeks. A Peruvian company name was enough for us to purchase a round trip ticket without hesitation! The anxiety concomitant with jet-setting to a foreign country without complete job security rose and climaxed when we realized conversation icebreakers had to be in Spanish. Avoiding awkwardness in English is already almost impossible for me as it is, so I patiently awaited my boss as I perused my arsenal of knowledge, mentally recounting Spanish books and movies from class so I could quickly relate to them if the conversation lulled.
Thank goodness Melvin, my Peruvian boss, is suave enough for the both of us. We discussed the logistics behind shadowing at the clinic, ceviche, chocolate, and before I knew it, the program coordinators declared a final toast so that no one had to travel home during an obscure hour.
My excitement about my shadowing internship carried over for days! Melvin and I had made plans for me to start my internship early in order to meet the majority of the doctors at the clinic as well as get my uniform customized. He said I would have full reins to observe whatever I wanted in the clinic and he has definitely kept his word to this day.
On my first day at the clinic, I was ushered into the operating room of a brain surgery!!!!! Yes, all these exclamation points are necessary.
I’ve seen human brains before – at science camp (and on Grey’s Anatomy!) – but they’ve never been attached to a beating heart.
The patient was a teenage boy and it would be his 4th brain surgery within the year. He had an aggressive brain tumor and an aggressive team of talented doctors to match. As I loomed over the shoulder of the neurosurgeon and watched as the patient’s head was shaved, a lot of conflicting emotions erupted from the core of my stomach.
A patch of the patient’s skull was meticulously drilled out of his head almost as quickly as I could imagine future-surgeon-Jeanie with the drill in my hand. Yet I wanted to run out through the automatic sliding glass doors to the beat of the patient’s heart. Although I can physically see myself running the scenes of an operating room, I feel like I have to become emotionally cold to cope with the emotional trauma of the patients! (Did I mention I cry during every Grey’s Anatomy episode? Because I don’t….)
Before this shadowing internship, I thought shadowing was a stupid waste of precious time because I’m more of a hands-on person. However, all the Mather (my upperclassman House/dorm) premed tutors/advisers strongly recommended shadowing. Since it was difficult for me to find time during this past academic year, I was beyond elated to not only receive the opportunity to shadow and simultaneously practice Spanish, but also acquire generous funding through the Office of Career Services (OCS) [see “International Internships and Funding” in the hyperlink].
I never thought I would stand inside an operating room in action before the third year of medical school. The fact that I’ve already had this experience as a rising undergraduate junior blatantly demonstrates how Harvard and its resources effectively provide a catalyst to jumpstart as well as support students on their career paths. Reid, in her more recent blogs, mentions how grateful she is to be studying abroad in the country known for love and food. I couldn’t agree with her more.
I’ve done a lot of traveling this summer and still have tons of traveling ahead of me. When my summer official ends on September 4th (the first day of class of the fall semester), I’ll have my personal record of travel mileage. Every plane, bus and train that I board is made possible by Harvard, its opportunities and resources, as well as the strong support of my family and friends. Have I mentioned that I love life enough? And I haven’t even begun to rave about the “summer” half of “summer internship” …
DRCLAS’s official calendar has students working/going to class Monday-Thursday with organized activities on Fridays and free weekends. Please note that students may be called in to work on any day! The flip side applies too – meaning that spontaneous holidays have happened. For example, the second Thursday of the program was a participant’s birthday! The main program coordinator was gracious enough to invite all the students over to her house to celebrate with pizza and CAKE! It was really great to reunite with the other students because we saw each other every day during orientation week, but when work and school started, we hadn’t seen each other for days! Hearing about everyone’s internship over a slice (or multiple slices!) of delicious birthday cake was the ideal way to wind down the first “business week.”
On the second Friday of the program, DRCLAS organized a tour through Paracas and Ica. In Paracas, we boarded a boat headed to the Ballestas Islands.
On our way to the islands, we got a great view of “The Chandelier” hieroglyphic
as well as a wide range of animal species including sea wolves and Humboldt penguins! Back on the mainland, we toured a winery. Although you might expect a bunch of college students to get excited about free wine samples, we were all just really eager for lunch! One of the more difficult adjustments to Peruvian life is the late lunchtime! We hadn’t really eaten since breakfast at 5am and it was about 3pm which directly translates into a bunch of winey kids (if you catch my drift 🙂 !)
After lunch, most of us spent the best $8 of our lives. Literally right next to the lunch restaurant were miles and miles of seemingly endless Huacachina sand dunes where we sandboarded down steep, STEEP slopes!