Marisa Vila Bea - Dentistry in Argentina
Originally my trip abroad was to gain some experience for my application to study dentistry, learn some Spanish and do a bit of travelling all at the same time. What I didn't expect is how unforgettable my trip to Argentina would be and how my time there would give me so much more than the valuable work experience I was hoping for. During my stay I was lucky enough to meet some of the most amazing people that I have kept in touch with and through them experienced aspects of the country and its culture that wouldn’t have been possible if I was travelling alone.
Leading up to my month abroad I was both excited and anxious, as I had never travelled anywhere alone before so was nervous about being so far away from home. The warm welcome I received from both Projects Abroad representatives as well as my host family reassured me that I need not have worried.
For a month my hosts treated me like one of the family, my two host sisters and parents were keen to give me a true taste of Argentinean life and I am so grateful to them for the experiences they gave me. From the moment I walked through the door, when I was offered my first taste of Argentinean mate, to the tango show I took part in whilst visiting Buenos Aires, I felt like every day offered something new.
My Dentistry Placement in Argentina
My placement in a public dental hospital in the centre of Cordoba was a memorable and unique experience, where I was lucky enough to observe and assist within various branches of dentistry. The dentists I observed were a real inspiration in terms of reassuring and putting patients at ease and were always keen to answer any questions and explain any procedures to me. At first I was worried that not being able to speak much Spanish would make the placement difficult and was unsure how much the language barrier would affect my learning. However, after just a couple of days within the hospital I adjusted more to the technical names of instruments and procedures and the dentists were always very understanding and patient.
During my time at the hospital I developed a greater awareness of the issues affecting oral health and felt like part of the team. I am confident that my experiences in the hospital helped my dentistry application greatly back in the UK and I am due to begin studying dentistry at university in September.
Travelling and Exploring Argentina with Other Volunteers
I was keen to travel as much as possible to get the most out my trip and so every weekend I would visit a different area of Argentina. Together with other volunteers, I visited Buenos Aires, Salta and Unquillo. I was amazed at how much this amazing country had to offer, from the exciting and vibrant atmosphere in Buenos Aires to the beautiful landscapes in Salta.
We also spent a lot of time exploring Córdoba itself and it really seemed like a home from home, going the cinema with friends or for an ice-cream after our placements or just having a wander around the shops. Socialising with other volunteers after a day in my placement was a great way to relax, wind down and meet new people.
Learning the Local Culture and Improving my Spanish
The Argentinean culture seemed so unique, there was such a friendly and relaxed atmosphere in every city I visited and everyone I met was so keen that we fully immersed ourselves into the Argentinean way of life. One of the main reasons for visiting Argentina was to improve my Spanish and gain confidence in speaking the language.
After just a few weeks of speaking to both patients and staff within my placement, as well as encouragement from my host family to speak Spanish as much as possible, I felt my skills in the language had greatly improved. Since leaving Argentina I have continued my studies of Spanish and I am glad that I was given the opportunity to kick-start my learning in such an exciting way.
I hope to return to Argentina one day and explore the beautiful country further. I am grateful for the experiences I was given there as well as the welcoming nature of the Projects Abroad staff. I also owe a lot to my host family who introduced me to the Argentinean culture and treated me like a daughter from day one.
I was also lucky enough to meet some great people volunteering with Projects Abroad whilst in Argentina and together we shared some unforgettable experiences. I look forward to returning one day and continuing to explore such a welcoming and unique country which has so much to offer.