My first criteria when choosing a country for my IFMSA clerkship was that it should be as far as possible, second was that it should be some God forgotten place and third that after my time in hospital i will sit on a motorbike and go surfing until the sun goes down.
Indonesia got it all, so I bought the flight ticket. I flew with cabin luggage only, which I really recommend. In South-east Asia, you need nothing and if anything, you can always buy is cheaply, especially clothes. I book a flight through Kuala Lumpur (Qatar Airways), a very good transit city and also nice to see. I arrived three weeks before the clerkship and traveled to Lombok, Bali, Java with my girlfriend. Definitely amazing places to see. Since I only had the 30 day free visa, after these three weeks I flew back to KL to say farewell to my girlfriend and next day took flight to Padang – Sumatra. I entered Indonesia again so I applied again for the 30 day free visa at the airport.
Padang is a one-milion city by the sea, mainly flat, surrounded by hills and jungle. City itself is nothing special, yet around the city you can find beautiful places such as islands, mountains, volcanoes, rice fields, tea plantages and so on. SCOPE team in Padang is very kind and they would do everything for you they can, unless it’s not against some of their internal rules, religion or traditions. However, at that time the contact persons were very young and not experienced enough to guide you in a best possible way, especially in the hospital. Anyway, we had some nice social events with them. We went to two weekend trips around Padang. We also had a welcome party, farewell party (in islamic/asian world it means dinner and picture taking, a lot of picture taking :D). We also organised some trips by ourselves, no problem.
The hospital you will be in is a regional hospital, so that means a lot of complicated cases from the whole region and usually treated too late. I attended General surgery. It’s not only abdominal surgery as in Slovakia, but literally general – they operate on everything, trauma, neuro, onco, obstetrics… So they do everything and not as good as in Europe. We were assisting at the operations and could do night shifts as well. English competencies of residents were ok and they were friendly as well. If you want to experience how does surgery work in Sumatra, this is a great opportunity. If you want to learn a lot, not as such. However, students who attended Cardiology spent more time in the hospital (we were finished by noon usually) and in the end learnt more. For the hospital, you need long pants, shirt, white coat.
After hospital, we usually all went to have a lunch together, coffee and sometimes we went for a beach (20min by bike) where you can rent a surf cheaply and surf/learn how to. You can also buy a beer there and that’s something. In the evening, we used to go to Bat and Arrow pub – an island in an islamic sea of abstinence. You will be mesmerized by it as we were.. no hipster could possibly resist. Last week, after completing 80 percent of the clerkship days, we flew to Medan and went to Bukit Lawang for a jungle trek – amazing experience! Orangutans, monkeys, lizards, parrots, amazing. Other possibility for this week was Mentawai island, but we decided for the jungle.
Accommodation was in host families. It has it’s pros and cons. My family was amazing and I lived close to Karin – girl from BA as well. The whole family knew english very well, we had lot of fun and some nice trips. I had my own room, was given some delicious food and also they lent me their motorbike for a month. It’s very convenient to have a motorbike there, public transport is too slow and taxi will be a bit costly in the end.
Food in Padang is usually very spicy and fatty. You can have lunch from 1 euro. Food is usually quite simple, rice, noodles, curry. You can also find some tasty seafood along the coast.
There are probably better destinations in SEA then Padang, but if your expectation are the same i had, you won’t be disappointed.