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Student Testimonials: Melissa Belsky

Melissa Belsky, a rising senior biology student with a Spanish minor at SUNY Geneseo, spent a month working in and touring the healthcare system in and around El Sauce as a part of a service learning project. Reflecting on her experiences, including witnessing a birth on her first day, Melissa had a lot to say about the impact it has had on her goal to become a physician's assistant and her perspective on cultural differences. Read her account of the experience below!

The birth of all things is weak and tender, and makes our eyes intent on new beginnings. This is exactly how my service learning experience began; with the birth of a child. On my very first day, I realized that my trip was going to be far different from anything I could have ever imagined. Throughout the next few weeks, my experiences in hospitals and clinics were a collection of intense moments, all which were comparable to the aftershocks of a giant quake. However brief they were, these moments forced me to question why I was fortunate enough to have these life altering and intimate cultural experiences, and ultimately contemplate what it means to be human...

...I like to think when that Nicaraguan baby girl was born, I also was faced with a new beginning; a new perspective of myself and the world around me. Working in a small hospital and clinics in El Sauce provided me with a deeper and more meaningful experience than I would have ever had in a local hospital. Naturally I became a more humbled person, seeing how two-thirds of the world’s population actually lives. My United States bubble was popped and the connotations of western medicine were gravely changed. However along with this idea I learned that these people’s way of life is not better or worse than mine. There are good aspects and there are bad aspects but this is what the Nicaraguan people know and they are okay. I learned that wealth and privilege do not necessarily define capability or happiness. I learned to break engraved cultural barriers with conversation and a good attitude. And as a result, I made life long friends and family. My EMT skills were significantly improved with hours upon hours of practice, and I was exposed to medical terminology and procedures I could have never imagined doing before this trip. Being immersed in Spanish culture, I put my Spanish speaking skills to use and realized to be fluent you need to practice without fear of mistakes. My desire to become a physician’s assistant is stronger than ever. Being in an underprivileged hospital setting and working long hours was tough. But throughout the whole time I had the upmost respect for the doctors and nurses I worked with, and I whole-heartedly wish to embody that same respect. I will do what it takes to become a physician’s assistant. However the most important thing I learned was the true meaning of service learning. I came into this experience thinking I was going to help people and return home a hero. But on the contrary, the people of Nicaragua taught and helped me more than I could have ever given in return. So maybe when I do become a physician’s assistant, I can return to Nicaragua, the country I have grown to love and call my second home, and do my part to return the favor.

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