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My College Mission Trip: Clinic Work in Costa Rica

Editor’s Note: Mission trips for college students are an unforgettable way to gain experience, create memories, and make a positive impact on the world. Stephanie Ibrahim ‘15 shares her first-hand account of her medical mission trip to Costa Rica.

It has been a little over a month since I returned from a college mission trip in Costa Rica. It took me about two weeks to get over the severe withdrawals I was feeling once I stepped foot back onto American soil. Naturally, during those two weeks, I was hit hard with a nostalgia that could only be feasibly allayed by obsessively looking through all my pictures from the mission trip.

As I looked through the photos, however, I began to realize that the pictures could not capture the true beauty of the country. I would have to rely on my memory for that. Luckily, an experience like this one with an amazing non-profit organization will be hard to forget.

College Student in a Foreign Land: Embarking on a Medical Mission Trip

On May 18, 2014 I, along with seven other UST students, embarked on a journey to Costa Rica to do medical missionary work. Covered in exotic fauna, active volcanoes, and fresh water springs, I felt like I was dreaming for most of it.

Pre-Health Professions Society Members who traveled on a medical mission to Costa Rica.

Pre-Health Professions Society Members who traveled on a medical mission to Costa Rica. Left to right, front row: Stephanie Ibrahim, Helen Kreit, Nadine Fahmy, Nhi Nguyen, Oscar Maldonado and another volunteer; Back row: Two other volunteers and UST students: Branae Rollins, Lara Al-Fady and Nosa Edogun.

It was our first mission trip, so we were all rookies. With nothing more than our extensive science education from UST and clinical experiences, we hoped our untrained hands and liberally educated brains would suffice for the type of work we would be expected to do.

The first day at the clinic, I had no idea how much Spanish I would be expected to know or how much training I would need before I could start helping. To my surprise, the first thing we were told was that no training or previous Spanish is required. They were simply happy with any help they could get.

Volunteers from the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children ran the whole clinic. FIRMC is a non-profit organization that has established several clinics in various underdeveloped countries.

UST Mission to Costa Rica

Naturally, I was a bit anxious on my first day, but the people were all very patient as I struggled with my Spanish or mispronounced someone’s name. They would merely smile and help me pronounce it correctly. Honestly, it was endearing. No eyes were rolled or hands were thrown up in surrender.

Though the children were malnourished and dehydrated, and the mothers were stuck waiting almost more than two hours to see the doctor, I sensed nothing less than gratitude. Mothers patiently waited as their babies suckled and their children played. Bring out a bucket of crayons and see a sparkle in the children’s eyes, especially when they discover that the crayons are not only good for coloring but for throwing as well.

Beyond College: Missionary Work Taught Me Lessons to Last a Lifetime

UST student Nhi Nguyen in a Costa Rican pharmacy.

UST student Nhi Nguyen writes out instructions in the Costa Rican pharmacy.

I expected to be exhausted after working for eight hours every day, but it never felt like work. I was inspired by the experiences I gained in Costa Rica. I was also very pleased with the amount of real world application I was able to use in the examination room from my studies. Mission trips for college students are a great way for them to apply what they learn in the classroom to the world around them.

As I apply for medical school this summer, I know I can use these experiences to motivate me to push through, for I have not been surer about the path I have chosen. I can’t say that all I have with me now are my memories because that wouldn’t be true. I have new friends, new experiences, a new perspective, and of course some pretty awesome souvenirs

By Stephanie Ibrahim

About the Author — Staff

AvatarThe University of St. Thomas is the only Catholic, liberal arts university in Houston, Texas. We have 35+ undergraduate majors including STEM, Nursing, Business, Education and Pre-Med. Located in a vibrant urban environment just minutes from downtown and the famed Texas Medical Center, we welcome students of all races and religions to our diverse and collaborative campus.

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