"To make a machine sustainable should be the ultimate goal, rather than marketability.”
Santhi has spent two summers of her undergraduate career abroad. In the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, she learned about the healthcare systems of developing countries and gained hands-on experience in working on hospital machinery.
For Santhi, summer study abroad programs seemed to fit best with her course of study in biomedical engineering, and she chose to travel to the Americas because of her interest in the region and background in Spanish. She went to the Dominican Republic through CIEE, taking classes in medical sociology and community health. The program also allowed students to shadow local doctors in rural hospitals. "At that point, I could see myself going to medical school, and I could see myself working in rural places in the developing world for a little bit. It was helpful as far as getting to know the healthcare system in the Dominican Republic, the history behind it, how the U.S. has influenced it."
Her second experience, with Duke University’s Summer Engineering World Health Institute, helped Santhi synthesize her interest in health care with her engineering major. Working with maintenance staff in rural Nicaraguan hospitals, Santhi noticed the number of old and donated devices that were not helping the hospital to deliver services. "As an engineer, I was thinking about the usefulness of parts. To make a machine sustainable should be the ultimate goal, rather than marketability. I felt a new dedication to sustainable products that could be used in the developing world." Santhi’s first experience flowed into the second, bringing her closer to her true career interests, and allowing her to put those interests to work.
As a biomedical engineering major, Santhi knew that going abroad would be a challenge. “I think this worked well for me because they were summer programs. Even though it is shorter, you still can learn a lot and meet a lot of people. I was really lucky to find things like this that matched with my major so well, and that I was interested in.” Much of the planning process may depend on how long a student wants to be away, when they would like to go, and whether or not they are willing to delay graduation. Santhi put it this way: “One year is nothing you’re going to regret, if you stay another year and graduate. I think sometimes people are happier doing that, and just spreading things out.” When asked to give advice to other IT majors interested in getting abroad, Santhi said, “Start looking and planning ahead. If you start early, you’re going to find something.”
Check out CIEE Dominican Republic.