Gold Residential Project: Peru medical internship

By Abigail Lewis Year 11 Student November 24, 2023

During the September holidays, I had the privilege to study abroad in Cuzco, Peru, on a medical internship where I got to watch surgeries, visit Machu Picchu, learn how to cook Peruvian cuisine, and more.

My journey started at 9:00am on Friday 15th of September at the Sydney International Airport, where I was dropped off and left to check myself in for the first time ever. Once I had gotten through security, I realised I was leaving the country for the other side of the world all by myself. It took three flights to get me there: Sydney to Santiago, Santiago to Lima, and finally, Lima to Cuzco. Having never gotten on a plane by myself before, it was bound for a few mishaps to happen. I encountered my first obstacle in Lima, where I had to communicate with Spanish-speaking airport staff after immigration for directions to the domestic airport. Thankfully, I had my 3 weeks of ‘intensive’ Duolingo knowledge in my back pocket to help understand what they were saying (I was looking at which direction they were pointing in and hoping for the best). When I arrived in Cuzco on the Saturday night, after getting lost twice in the Lima airport, I had officially been travelling for over 24 hours.

The internship officially started on the Monday, giving me time to adjust to the 15-hour jetlag I was experiencing, alongside a headache due to the high altitude (3,200 meters). Also staying with me were the four other girls on the medical internship as well, whom I had not yet met, and who all attend the same school. Our first day at the hospital was on the Tuesday, where we took the vitals of patients and helped the nurses with some of their tasks.

Another obstacle was the hospital only spoke Spanish, and if you couldn’t tell, I don’t speak Spanish.


Why did I choose Peru then? The itinerary. I initially found out about a similar program but in Nepal during the December holidays, which clashed with commitments I already had. But in mid-August, my career’s councillor, Ms Selby, forwarded an email on from ‘Project’s Abroad’, which had a number attached. I initially called as an expression of interest and asked if there were any upcoming projects in the September break that I could join. Will, the sale’s associate, sent through the itinerary of the Peru medical internship that four girls had organised, and that sold me: visiting Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, salsa lessons, and cooking classes just some of the amazing experiences that were unique to Peru. On my time away, I had to opportunity to watch several surgeries, including an appendectomy, a distal radius fracture surgery, where I assisted in dis-infecting the patient’s arm, and a caesarean. Aside from the hospital, I was involved in workshops which included learning how to do a suture stich, a neurology workshop where I had the opportunity to hold a human brain, as well as going to a school outside of Cuzco to help test the children for anaemia.

Coming back from the project, I have reflected on my experience in Peru, and realised it has given me insight into my passions for my future; I am interested in a medical field career. I have gained confidence in myself as a 16-year-old girl who travelled by herself for the first time half way across the world, as well as having to overcome a language barrier for two weeks, on top of doing it all with complete strangers. This trip has given me not only memorable experiences, but extensive knowledge on the beauty of helping people and how important it is to give back to the community. I have also made friendships that I will cherish for years to come. I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience this, and because of what I have learnt, I have reached out to my local paramedics to work part-time as a First Aid medic for local events in my area as a way of giving back. I am so thankful for the experience and cannot wait for what is to come.