My name is Emily Shaffer and I am a senior majoring in Biochemisty/Chemistry, with a minor in Global Health. I spent five weeks completing my field experience requirement in Alajuelita, Costa Rica with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC)– Project Alajuelita. http://www.fimrc.org/costa-rica

During my time in Costa Rica I worked with families living in the Alajuelita area of San Jose. There were many small neighborhoods that were some of the poorest in the country. The families coming to the clinic were almost entirely Nicaraguan, and came to the clinic seeking quality care as they can feel discriminated against among Costa Ricans. I was in the clinic 9 am-2 pm each day, and either shadowed the doctor, shadowed the psychologist, or worked the clinic. Following each appointment, the doctor and psychologist would debrief us (it was difficult to keep up in Spanish). The psychologist shared what she learned about her patients from art therapy, this was her specialization. I participated in distributing cough/cold medicines, lice shampoo, antihistamines, and anti-parasite pills. In the mornings we often took vitals such as height, weight, blood pressure, and recorded medical history.

Some trivial challenges I faced included language barriers and transportation. My proficiency increased throughout the trip as a result of immersion and Spanish class each weekday, however it still became an obstacle at times while working with patients or in experiences outside the hospital. Transportation to and from the hospital was difficult as I used the public bus system taking two buses each way, and neither of which had stops on a regular basis, so it could take anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour and a half to get to the clinic each day. Everything in the clinic was run extremely well and it was a great environment, however there were certainly challenging moments in hearing some of the stories form the patients in psychology sessions.

Beyond the clinic, Costa Rica was an absolutely amazing place to visit. Each weekend I took a trip with my roommates and host family, or fellow clinic workers. I visited beaches, volcanoes, national parks and hot springs. The diversity of the region was incredible, both biodiversity and diversity in wealth and living conditions. I would absolutely love to stay involved with FIMRC and return to this clinic and others in Costa Rica.