Connor Bondarchuk
Madison, Connecticut USA

Connor participated in a medical internship in Cape Town with VACorps in 2017.

“For as long as I can remember, coming to South Africa has been one of my lifelong dreams. Not only is the country so vast in size and so diverse geographically, but its history of inequality and disparity deeply interested me. As I entered university and began to hone in my career path as a future physician, I thought that South Africa would be an incredible place to examine the health care challenges that the developing world faces, as well as the impact that historical inequalities have on health care outcomes. Cape Town seemed like the perfect place to satisfy these interests, and upon further examination, the city also revealed itself to be bustling with a diverse array of things to see and do. Despite this trip being my first time outside of North America (my first plane ride ever was to Cape Town!), I felt assured that the city would be the perfect place to work for a two month period in the middle of my pre-medical studies. Although my expectations were high, I could never have expected how fulfilling and life-changing my experience in Cape Town would be.

“I have grown leaps and bounds as a person; I thought I was quite open-minded before coming here, but living and working in Cape Town has definitely challenged my ability to empathize with people with far different experiences from my own, as well as challenged my understanding of the racial and economic disparities that have characterized the nation throughout its history. Living in Cape Town has provided me with so many unique perspectives, and opened me to so many different experiences, whether that be from my coworkers, or my housemates, or just random people I have met throughout my time here. It has unwittingly made me a more critical thinker and has allowed me to see the value in cultures and lifestyles far different from that of my own.

“My internship taught me so much about health care issues that I would seldom have been exposed to back in the United States and taught me about the challenges that doctors and nurses face in treating patients that come from impoverished communities, where superstitions and miseducation often abound. Visiting larger district hospitals and schools throughout the Cape Flats supplemented my work here, and made my understanding of South Africa and of health care that much more well-rounded.

“I would without any hesitation recommend the VACorps program to others looking into the possibility of internships in South Africa. I felt immensely prepared coming here despite my very limited travel experience, and the pre-arrival help that I got as well as the orientation program allowed me to easily adjust to life here in South Africa. It also provided me with the opportunity to meet other interns from across the world, which greatly added to my experience here. I never for one second felt like I was “lost” in a country that was not my own, and I can attribute that feeling of security to the staff at VACorps. Thanks to all of you so much for an absolutely incredible two months!”

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