By Sally Trout ’16
Unlike many of my classmates, I had been looking forward to spending a summer in the UK for years, not months. I discovered the comparative healthcare course and internship program as a high school student visiting Lafayette, and hearing about the students’ experiences abroad in this particular program definitely played a role in my decision to commit here. As an athlete, I knew I’d never be able to spend a full semester abroad, so this 8 week summer course seemed like the perfect opportunity to broaden my horizons and gain a better perspective on healthcare around the globe.
Since returning home, friends and family have asked if the experience lived up to my expectations. I can say with confidence that this summer program was everything I could have hoped for and more. I don’t know how I can possibly capture the adventure of those eight weeks in as many paragraphs!
Let’s start with the course. This comparison of the ethical, social, and economic aspects of the healthcare systems in the US and abroad provided me with more practical knowledge than any other course I have taken at Lafayette. Our intimate classroom discussions picked apart the flaws in the haphazard amalgamation of insurance companies and government programs that make up the US system and identified the mechanisms other countries use to develop cohesive healthcare systems that actually work. The depth and breadth of the information we covered is astounding! I entered the course with very little knowledge of the major issues with our system of healthcare in the US, but I’ve left feeling empowered to take part in these discussions (something that should hopefully prove useful in medical school interviews).
The middle four weeks of the program were spent at an internship in the healthcare field; I was placed at UCLPartners, a nonprofit academic health science partnership that works to translate clinical research into measurable health gains for the local population. I worked on launching a child health informatics platform, which took me around northeast London to network with individuals involved in various aspects of the NHS. I worked mostly in the borough of Newham, which is one of the poorest regions in all of England (over 1/3 of children are living in poverty). It was so humbling to work on a project that, although not during the time I spent there, will directly improve the welfare of these children.
Now, since I was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania living in a city, not to mention one in another country, was completely foreign to me.
I was so surprised how much I like London. I love the (mostly) unwritten code of social conduct that every Londoner seems to have memorized and the passive-aggressive use of “sorry.” I miss the Tube and hearing “Mind the gap” 20 times in one trip. I wish I could bring the charming Victorian architecture back with me. I miss the sense of amazement every time we entered a building that was older than the US. I loved laughing at the trivial aspects of British society America changed just to be different (having different names for vegetables, alternate numbering of building floors, and of course, driving on the wrong side of the road). I’d do anything to take the Underground to Borough Market for a milkshake from the Bath Soft Cheese Co. one more time.
This trip was definitely not all work and no play. We had the opportunity to travel to places and do things I never could have anticipated. Some of the most memorable (there are almost too many to list):
- Seeing The Merchant of Venice at The Globe, even though we had to stand the whole time
- Walking among the stones at Stonehenge at sunset
- Snow in the Scottish highlands in the middle of June
- Taking the Eurostar through the Chunnel to France
- Celebrating Zoe Reinus’s birthday with a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower
- Swimming in Serpentine Lake at Hyde Park on the hottest day in UK history
- Billy Elliot (INCREDIBLE)
- Walking around Westminster on the Fourth of July with an American flag
- Surviving a Tube strike
- And saving the best for last… a surprise visit from my little sister!
It’s so hard to sum up this incredible experience in a few words and pictures. I didn’t know how much I had grown accustomed to life as a Brit until I came home and had to assimilate back into US culture.