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Estefania Lopez in Costa Rica

This summer I was privileged with the opportunity to participate in the Global Medcats Spanish Language in Healthcare Program in Costa Rica, which is organized by UA Medical students through the College of Medicine. Our daily schedule involved waking up at 5am to be ready at the bus stop at 6am to be at a clinic at 6:30am to work alongside a doctor, as a doctor myself! Lunch was from 12-1pm, we had a medical Spanish class from 1-4pm and ran to the bus to be home for dinner time with our host family around 5-6pm. Dr. Sergio Leon was my paired doctor at the Clinica Biblica in the county San Sebastian in San José the capital. He taught me basic procedures checking the heart, lungs, ears, nose, mouth of patients, among other medical jargon, but he also demonstrated what a really dedicated doctor he is through actions. He taught me that caring about your patients and taking the time to listen and work with them to improve their lifestyle, building a trusting patient-doctor relationship was just as important as the medicine itself. Any procedure such as laboratory results, pap smears, ultrasounds, x-rays, etc. take at least 2 months to process, and even worse, surgeries such as an appendectomy are scheduled within 2 years! I truly admire him because of this and his ability to clinically diagnose a patient without having immediate data and his truthful quality medical care being also a friend to the patients and myself. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to employ every day’s medical Spanish teachings at the clinic, because we covered many topics such as the vascular diseases, cardiac problems, neurological, dermatological, and respiratory systems, etc. Being called a doctor while living in a foreign country felt so amazing because the Costa-Rican people are very welcoming and humble and they allowed me to not only experience being a doctor, but also learn about their culture, customs and hardships. This made me grow as a person and alter my perspective tremendously. The lifestyle that we carry in the US is not even close to how life is in Costa Rica. There is no custom to have AC in houses, or clothes drying machines, doors are left open for air to circulate and for neighbors to visit, fruit all day everyday is a must as well as other healthy habits like waking up early and eating food that is not deep fried or fattening. There is no rush to their life, and what I mean by that, is that here in the US, we are all about appointments and rushing to fit too many things into one day, life flies by here, where on the contrary, there, although people are still punctual, there is a peace and tranquility to each day, not this rush to leave the house at the crack of dawn without breakfast and all stressed out. Words cannot describe the beauty of this country, everywhere we travelled to on a bus or taxi, whether it be a beach, volcano or local area, we would always have an amazing scenery with all types of trees, exotic flowers, and a variety of animals. Despite the hair troubles with the humidity of this tropical country, I loved every place we visited and how as a country they are very conscious of their carbon footprint and have declared that they will become the first carbon-neutral country by the year 2021. In order to achieve their goals they have many self-sustaining techniques in use like crop rotation, natural pesticides and the decreased use of electricity as well as have employed many laws protecting the biodiversity they have. My adventure in Costa Rica lasted 5 weeks and I would definitely return if I have the chance, there are endless stories I could share but living through the experience was definitely the best part.

- Estefania Lopez
- Biochemistry & Spanish Translation and Interpretation Major