Study Abroad: Take 2

So this is my 2nd year traveling with the Global Health program. This year’s destinations: Budapest and Prague. Last year, I visited Munich, Germany and loved studying abroad and getting lost in European metros so much, I decided “once more”.

budapest mee
View from top of St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, Hungary

An overview on what I learned about the structure of healthcare in Budapest and Prague:

  • Universal healthcare – an oversimplified definition is that everybody receives insurance and money is withdrawn from their paychecks.
    • Pros: in theory the level and access of care is to be equivalent for each member of the country, simplifying the system and making it easier for both providers and patients
    • Cons: in practice, this causes long wait times for basic medical tests and procedures. In addition to the standard level of care, if a patient wants expedited care, this is available through out-of-pocket costs, disabling the concept of equal care for each citizen.
  • Shortage of the healthcare workforce and resulting decrease in productivity: Unlike in the states, most European countries do not emphasize mid-level practitioners (this includes nurse practitioners, physician assistants, graduate level nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives)… this results in the full patient load falling on the shoulders of GPs (general physicians), who may have to see 60 patients or more per day! As a result, less time is spent per patient, wellness education may be lacking, and overall provider-patient satisfaction may suffer.
  • Cutting edge technology is applied in all levels of medicine and cancer care and research is emphasized in universities as well as healthcare organizations – For example, when we visited the National Institute of Oncology in Budapest, Hungary the radiologist demonstrated the use of Cyber knife (a type of radiation therapy) that targets highly specific malignant tissue of brain tumors
  • Nursing training: nursing education is provided through bachelor degrees, certification and training programs; one major difference is that while in Budapest and Prague, we observed the lack of mid-level practitioners, making it difficult for nurses to obtain a higher education and become independent providers. According to WHO, more and more emphasis is being placed on higher quality nursing and medical education to achieve improved levels of care and positive patient outcomes.
  • Medical training: In comparison to the US (which requires a 4-year undergraduate degree, an MCAT exam, and 4 years of medical school prior to a residency), European medical schools are structured as a 6-year medical program… From my understanding, most programs do not require an undergraduate degree and students are able to get in after completion of high school. After speaking with several medical students and a doctor, we found that their medical training is intensive and students rotate through all departments with an early hands-on approach in patient care.
  • WHO – My group and I were able to attend a meeting for the World Health Organization where we learned the role WHO plays in controlling communicable (aka infectious) disease from spreading across borders. European nations as well as the United States takes an active part in working with WHO to help control or hopefully eradicate communicable diseases. “Secretariats” or WHO delegates from each nation are responsible for dispersing disease control measures in their respective countries and working closely with borders to ensure infection control during times of outbreaks.

Left to right: sunrise from the St. Charles Bridge in Prague, Matthias Church in Budapest, my crazy group and I in Cesky Krumlov on our free day.

 

In addition, here are 5 helpful travel tips from me to you:

  1. WhatsApp (works on iPhone or android) – I’ve found that it is an excellent tool to use while you’re traveling with a group. Makes long bus rides super fun (where’s my “death bus” people at?… inside joke, sorry) and is very efficient for sending massive amounts of pictures, audio, messages, etc over wifi!
  2. This one is a life changer! Ready? GOOGLE MAPS! – Not a lot of people actually know that it will work OFFLINE! How cool and handy is that when you’re lost in a foreign city? Very! Just download the app and when you have wifi, download the map of the city/area you’re going to; then, even without wifi, you will be able to use google maps just like normal when you’re in that particular place)
  3. Pack layers!! If I’ve learned one thing while traveling… well 2.. then it’s this: weather is bipolar and unpredictable everywhere you go and you cannot escape rain.
  4. Be an active part of your group – Study abroad is an experience in itself. Yes, in the future you may take family vacations and personal trips, but going with a group of strangers who are open-minded and adventurous is such a unique aspect of this program. I’ve met some of the best people and learned so much from each person in both my trips abroad.
  5. Use your free time to the fullest!! In my program of study, we had professional visits almost each day (these included visiting the local health organizations, hospitals, organizational meetings, exploring a cave in business casual, and even meeting a Czech senator). However, every day we would also have many hours of free time and we used this to walk 10 miles across the world’s most beautiful bridges, paddle-boat, watch sunsets, hike up trails, do a river cruise, shop at local grocery stores, eat paprika chips, and drink purple hot chocolate (they even put a real flower in mine!)… to name a few.
Bridge Goals.
View of Liberty Bridge in Budapest

6. Okay I know I said 5, but one last thing: Gadgets!

  1. Universal adapter with multiple USB ports (key word: multiple)
  2. Portable charger (very small, lightweight, super convenient, charges my iPhone up to 1.5 times)
  3. Backup earphones… trust me on this one.
  4. Camera!! (I use the iPhone X camera, partly because I lose everything so I stay away from expensive cameras and mostly because it has excellent audio and video quality!!) Side note: iPhone shot travel video will be coming to the SAGA website, guys #droppingsoon 🙂 {UPDATE! Here is the video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrOzHg0WH48&t=1s}

 

Overall, I have had an unforgettable experience making friends, learning the culture, healthcare system, and a bit of politics, and having adventures in Europe!! I will forever be amazed by the beautiful architecture, wonderful people, and stunning dogs of Europe. Also, huge shoutout to Dr. Marlena Primeau for being amazing and for all she has done to make this trip fun and educational!

-J

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Musings from Germany.

In the 11 days my group and I spent in München, Germany, we gained a new perspective about the lifestyle of a very beautiful country. Walking around the city, talking to the local people about German ways of life and their healthcare system, and eating delicious food all helped me become more oriented to the similarities and differences between the American and German lifestyles. Here are a few small things I learned to appreciate and will miss slightly too much.

Escalator – stand on the right. Pass on the left.

Bicycles – very common method of transport. You’ll see a well-dressed man in a 3-piece suit riding around on a bicycle, and it’s perfectly normal. I have a slight crush on these beautifully handy machines, especially the folding ones (they’re just so convenient; you can ride around town, and then fold it up when hopping onto a bus or tram).

Also, with these views, I’d take a bicycle over a car any day. Or a moped.

 

Weather – … is eventful. During the month of May, it ranges from the high 40’s to low 70’s and sometimes is accompanied by rain. However, it changes within moments. When it comes to weather, layers were my best friend. Overall, it’s a good thing to be prepared for literally anything: cold, hot, rain, hail, cute dogs. Example: in the middle of a very hot, sunny day (with a 40% forecast of rain) in the marketplace, the German skies started hailing and thunder-storming. Be prepared, kids.

Transportation and accessibility – the public transport is incredibly efficient and clean. Major modes of transport are by foot, buses, trams, U-Bahn and S-Bahn (underground trains), babies riding in attractive strollers, cars, taxis, and bicycles. The public transport system bypasses traffic, is cost efficient, and you don’t have to search and fight for parking (Yass to all of that!). Feel like people-watching? Take the U.

The majority of the time, we walked everywhere… we averaged at around 10-12 miles each day. It is easy to get from one part of the city to another by using a combination of these methods. This in addition to the compact structure of the city makes everything more accessible as well. One major advantage of public transport is that people who are unable to or do not drive benefit from the accessibility and independence it provides.

The city – is condensed. In other words, a very large city is fit in a slightly smaller area. For a large city, the compact structure means that with a public transport system, you can get to places fairly quickly, given that you do not take the wrong train in the wrong direction. It took me a couple of days to finally start understanding how the U-Bahn (underground train system) operated. The maps look intimidating at first (and second) glance, but after getting lost several times, you learn to enjoy the adventures and get more efficient at map reading each time. #progress.

Dogs – a major attraction in the city streets. We see a lot more pets traveling with their owners daily here. Big dogs, small dogs, fluffy dogs, all cute dogs. Ian, our tour guide on a day trip to Salzburg (Austria) bought his dog with us for an entire day, and nobody complained. Several pets don’t even have a leash on, which starkly contrasts with pet norms and policies in the states. My extensive analysis on this important subject matter is that since pets spend more time with their families in the busy streets of larger cities like Munich, they are more used to outdoor interaction and are very well-behaved.

Food – is really good! Being a vegetarian, I was initially concerned about the options I would have available to me, mainly because Google implied that I may struggle. After all, German restaurants are known to offer some pretty great meat options. All in all, I found vegetarian food very easily and at almost every restaurant we went to. In fact, there were several purely vegan and vegetarian restaurants throughout town. In addition, there are many small places to eat in almost every part of the city that offer a considerable variety.

Architecture and views – any word I use will be a major understatement. Basically, imagine a postcard. Imagine being inside of it. Castles, super green grass, canola fields, busy train stations… it’s all stare-worthy. One problem I did run into while abroad: I had to give myself a time limit for staring.. and then remind myself that time was up. Talk about a real challenge.

 

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Out of an outrageously long list of things I’ve seen and learned, there’s my very small but useful but small list from my time in Munich; maybe it has convinced you to consider Munich as a place you should (definitely!) visit; if not, don’t worry I’ve still got more to say. 🙂

I plan to write more about the global and healthcare based observations I made in my next post! Hope you guys are having a wonderful summer as well! J