Experiences of a Mauritian as a Foreign Medical Student in Pakistan
‘‘Would I ever be capable of handling so much? ’’
After nearly five years, those nagging whispers sometimes still anxiously echo within my head…
Silent tears would roll down my cheeks. My ‘whole being’ sapped of strength, I would hurry to the girls’ campus; lock myself up in my room, away from the buzz of the crowded city. By the window, the majestic flight of the eagles, soaring high above, would make my thoughts drift far-off…. to those whom I left behind: my parents, siblings, family who always stood by me.
‘‘Why would anyone want to leave a zone of such physical and, above all emotional comfort?’’ you might duly wonder.
I am a final year medical student at Dow Medical College, Karachi, Pakistan. Five years ago, I decided to fly away from home country, Port-Louis Mauritius for the adventurous taste of studying medicine abroad. I was full of expectations. Sure enough, surprises did await: wake-up calls, eye-openers, challenges and mistakes, but well, in every hurdle, lies an opportunity to shed off weaknesses, brush off the thorns while retaining the rose and rise up again, better equipped for new days ahead.
Coming back to my story! I would soon regain my composure after the sobs, as I would remember that no soul is overburdened beyond what it can bear, if it makes the most of the circumstance. I would feel ashamed of my whines, recalling that numerous were those who faced aches I could barely ever fathom.
I’d grab the phone, instinctively dial the familiar number. Mom’s voice! My ‘insides’ would re-energize. Dad’s soothing words would quench my confidence quest. The uneasiness would dissipate despite the seas and miles apart. Blessed be parents! The next minute, I’d wear a smile and go out to face the world.
Deep inside though, the anguish never completely vanished. We learn to cope with emotions-a vital aspect of life and all-so-important in that of a medical student/ doctor. Sigh…the cries were not merely those of a homesick student but also those of an individual witnessing woes of fellow human beings.
The reason for the above preamble paragraphs is due to the profound lessons they teach me as the journey unfolds. Prior to becoming a better doctor, it is all about becoming a better daughter or son, a better sister or brother, a better friend, a better soul. I value the humility, the patience, the tolerance, the understanding, which life experience makes one develop in the practical sense.
Everyone and everything took more meaning and depth. What might once have been taken for granted was all the more precious-parents, siblings, eating, drinking… I only endeavor to retain the real-life instructions I benefitted from. I’d humbly encourage every medical student, everyone in fact, to ponder upon the value of human relationships. From then on, respect of fellow human beings would naturally set in. We all think we already inherited those characteristics but as a matter of fact, we might not be practicing what we know.
Sadly! Therefore, let us shake our slumber off and care to develop our humanity. After all, in medicine, we treat humans, like ourselves, like our own mother, our own people. As hard as it might be, next time, try walk in the shoes of the next angry, non-compliant patient. The point is to change our own attitudes to graceful responses and then transmit those values to our colleagues and patients alike.
Doctors…What’s being a doctor like? The thought of it seems very daunting every single time I come to think about it now, on the verge of graduating. Oh my, what a weighty responsibility it would be like to step into the real world, the glimpse of which is both exciting and frightening at the same time. The vast realm of the human body can only make us stand in awe of such intricacy. So often hence, I find myself doubting if I can ever reach the standards of reacting in the right way and benefitting others. I recall some wise words which said something like:
‘Whenever you feel overwhelmed by the amount of information, just tell yourself that one day, one patient might need you to have that knowledge.’ This would be a boost to strive for a higher purpose. Little steps ultimately make us reach the mountain tops.
If only I could say something but the words would remain like a stuck bolus in my throat as I would not know how to formulate them in Urdu. I’d find my heart constricting. I gently lifted her flimsy arms and adjusted the blood-pressure cuff. She mumbled words in Urdu and I could not understand some of them. I looked at her in the eyes and only listened, while holding her cold clammy hands. She smiled gratefully. Like this patient, so many others just need an attentive ear, a warm handshake, an empathic nod. The competent doctor sees the human beyond the prescriptions. Again, this is common knowledge, yet the few, who still have time to practice such art, are the noblest!
To all the bright minds I have witnessed around, students and hardworking doctors alike, I wish the very best. May their talents be efficiently tapped as already demonstrated by organizations like the Patients’ Welfare Association, JPMS Publisher (Journal of Pakistan Medical Students) amongst others. I admire their optimum use of limited resources and pooled up efforts. A team can achieve wonders! Medical schools might just start teaching those tips as well! Each one of us is a leader, at our own distinct level. If we all take our job at heart, society would definitely progress. Rewards are beyond the material gains.
And to all those who strive hard away from home, hats off folks!
To be the change you want to see…goes the saying. Wipe off doubts hindering your path. Aim high towards becoming better doctors, better individuals at the outset.
Let us make our absence felt…
An on-going endeavor! A privilege!
About the Author: Nafiisah B.M.H. Rajabalee is a final year medical student from Dow Medical College, Pakistan. She went to high school in Mauritius, where she was born. She comes from a varied background (several generations back), and loves to understand the psychology of people and listen to them. She looks forward to being useful to mankind through the medical profession. She can be reached at: [email protected].
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