I Took the Maximum out of This Month

Rute Castelhano, a fifth-year student of General Medicine, spent her summer internship in Campina Grande, Brazil. She writes an essay and sends pictures.


The idea of going to some faraway land and have some sort of medical experience there always fascinated me but I was always too afraid to do something about it – until this summer.

When I first applied to do the English test with IFMSA I had no hope in getting a place, because last year before I tried and I was not successful, so this year I tried again and it worked out well.

When the time came to choose the countries that I wanted to go to, I thought about some exotic ones, after all it is summer and life cannot just be about work! So, I wanted a perfect combination of good work experience with a warm, sunny country that I could travel around and enjoy!

My first option was Brazil, then Greece, Tunisia and then Taiwan. I got in my first choice, so Brazil it was!! As for the city, I wanted to go neither to Rio de Janeiro nor São Paulo, I but to a smaller city, more to the north, that would allow me to travel more and have some warmer weather, as it is winter there now. I got into Campina Grande, near Recife, and I decided to go in July and stay for a month.

Campina Grande is a small town, more in the inland of Brazil. Everything was five minutes away, exactly what you need when you are late in the morning to go to the hospital.

July arrived fast and there I was packing to go to Brazil for a month, my parents were not as excited as I was, due to all the things we hear about in Brazil but it was worth to give it a try! After all, I have heard very well about some previous IFMSA experiences there, so my expectations were high!

On 3 July, I started my IFMSA internship in the Department of General Surgery at Hospital Universitário Alcides Carneiro, I was quite nervous about how would it be and how people would receive me, the only thing that did not worry me was the language (as I am Portuguese).

My high expectations about this month were easily exceeded, it was an amazing month! Everyone there received me very well, from the IFMSA committee, to the person that hosted me at his house, to the staff in the hospital. They all made me feel comfortable and part of the surgical team. From the first day there, they thought me how to suture, and I had the chance to do it in the very first surgery I joined.

During the month, I had the opportunity to be in the OR assisting, helping and performing surgeries; to be in the small surgeries performing biopsies and excisions of moles, skin cancers, warts, and stitching; in the ER, where I saw patients coming in, some with gunshot injuries which I cleaned, removed the debridement and stitched; in the surgical ward where I had patients that I had to evaluate daily and write reports of in the post-op recovery and I was also responsible for their prescription and medical exams; and I also had the responsibility of performing smaller procedures when the Surgery Department was on call in certain cases of need, for example central venous catheters, paracentesis, thoracentesis and so on...

I decided to take the maximum out of this month, as everyone there was so supportive and willing to teach and let me perform all the practical stuff, so I ended up with 10/12 hour shifts with separate night shifts, but I loved it because I had the opportunity to do so many procedures, learn so much and gain much confidence and independence during my practice there.

During the weekends, I enjoyed the beautiful country of Brazil and travelled to many cities nearby, each weekend a different town! I got the opportunity to visit Maceio, Natal, Pipa, João Pessoa, Porto de Galinhas, Recife, Olinda and many more. I travelled with a very good friend of mine (who is also a student at the Second Faculty and is also my roommate in Prague) that was doing her IFMSA internship in Campina Grande as well. We were also with some other friends that we gained in this experience. Many of these cities were their hometowns, so we got to know them very well, they all made us feel at home and treated us like family.

Every place we visited enchanted us in a different and unique way but all of them with breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, wonderful beaches, warm seas, stunning sunsets and always with a smile from the locals and new friends we made there.

During this month beside all the work, I had the opportunity to make great friends and colleagues there, from the surgeons that taught me, to the students that were there learning and from other students coming from abroad and were there for their internships too. They all made me feel welcome, comfortable and at home. They all helped me so much during that month that it passed by really fast, and by the end of July I almost didn't want to leave.

After work, we would either go for dinner, or for a drink, or even a drive around the city. I got to try many typical Brazilian treats, my favourite by far was açaí!

From the month in Brazil, I take with me such amazing memories of people I met, places I visited, work experience I had, delicious food I tried and caipirinhas I drank.

I couldn't have asked for a better experience! I strongly recommend it. I will go to Brazil again for sure!

I must thanks to IFMSA who gave me the opportunity to go to Brazil and helped me with everything I needed and allowed me to have such an amazing experience. I would also like to thank everyone that I met and interacted with there because they made this month an unforgettable one, also a thanks to Rosário, who was my travelling buddy during this month and made this experience even better, and to my parents that provided the crucial economic part of this experience!

Brasil é Massa! (Brazil rocks!)

Published: 31. 8. 2017 / Responsible person: Mgr. Petr Andreas, Ph.D.