Boston University 2015

Peru: Healthcare in Development

Written by Jay Patruno, 2015 Boston University: Healthcare in Development

Almost everything about an international service learning trip is daunting. Sure, you sign up because you want to travel and make a difference, but in the end, we all share the same fears: What if my group doesn’t like me? What if the work we do is harder than I’m expecting? What if I don’t like the food? What if I get sick?

I was nervous for my trip to Peru, which centered around healthcare with my university. I knew nobody going, I dished out a lot of money for a trip that I didn’t know if I would enjoy, I didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, and I packed everything in a carry-on (even my toiletries for the entire trip!). To my pleasant surprise, I loved every second. This two-week journey introduced me to amazing people and I learned things about Peru’s history and healthcare system that I will never forget.

Boston University + Operation Groundswell

I cannot even pinpoint my favorite part of the program because every day was a new experience and every moment a memory that I will cherish. The people that attend these trips are amazing, and there is nothing more rewarding than sharing stories and bonding with strangers who are all there for a common cause. In my case, all of the students on the trip were from the same college as me at Boston University – Sargent College. Before going on the programI knew nobody, but upon arriving back in the States I truly believe I now have friends to last me a lifetime.

Program Leader Extraordinaires - Matt and Lindsey!

The OG program advisors/guides/liaisons/angels/life-savers are also the best humans ever! My two advisors, Matt and Lindsey, were the core of the success of our program and were why my friends and I had such a great time. Not only are they highly knowledgeable, but they are kind, passionate, and down-to-earth people with loads of international service experience.

In Peru, though it was a service program, we still got to hike up to Machu Picchu, of course. This is a day I will remember forever. I can say I did it and I did it well, waking up at 3:30 a.m. for breakfast, setting out to the stairs up the mountain to Machu Picchu at 4 a.m. and starting the climb by 5:15 .a.m. I was the 12th person to reach the top of Machu Picchu on June 3rd and watched the sun rise above the Sacred Valley. I was the first in our group to reach the top, accompanied by my fellow BU students, and we impressively did it much faster than our advisors had said it would take.

Machu Picchu Boston University 2015

Words do not describe the experience I had – only the pictures that I will have forever on my Instagram and Facebook and dorm room wall do it justice (and even photos aren’t good enough sometimes!). Listening to people’s stories, working alongside locals, helping them achieve their mission, and diving into a new culture is eye-opening. In Peru, since we were on a healthcare-oriented program, we visited various clinics ranging from religious to private, from rural to public. Some things shocked me, in both a good and sad way. What I saw and learned from various doctors, volunteers, and specialists was inspiring and I will utilize all of it as I go forward and practice my own form of healthcare when I graduate. Peru’s respect for homeopathic and traditional medicine and the clinical acknowledgment of people’s personal comfort and ancestral practices is admirable. The local passion for nature and work ethic made me feel like I should try a little harder in my own life.

Photo May 30, 9 55 16 AM

You really learn to appreciate your own life and take a lot back with you after the service program ends. I will not say that I went through a butterfly’s metamorphosis, but I sure did come home a different person – a better person – ready to go forward on the home front and make a difference in some way. The little things like playing soccer with the children on the rural farm and making the old artisan woman’s day by purchasing her homemade crafts are the real take-away experiences. Smiles are worth more than anything. I do not think any one of us 17 BU students left without our own huge smile and a collection of smiles from the people we met and helped.

Although leveling land, living in mud-huts, walking for hours with all of your belongings, and not showering for days at a time seems torturous… It was the greatest thing I’ve done with my life thus far. I even enjoyed eating guinea pig and alpaca!

Haylli Peru & Haylli OG,
Jay Patruno