Medlife: An internship story abroad

An interview with Crystal Rubalcava

How did you feel when you found out you got the internship?

I was excited and worried. Excited because I had gotten one of the most competitive positions; they were only accepting 2 applicants out of the hundreds that applied. But what encouraged me to apply in the first place was my experience as a volunteer. After going on a two week service learning trip in the winter I very much wanted to continue my participation with the organization and go back to the communities that changed my view on global health relief.

That is a lot of time to be spending away from home. Winter break is four weeks and I imagine that the internship was most of the summer.

I was worried because I wasn’t sure how my family would take the news. I hadn’t told them that I had applied for an internship that would require me to leave the country for the majority of my break, again. But everything worked out and I am still an active participant in the organization.

Congratulations! I’m really happy your family is supportive of the work you do. Speaking of work, what were some struggles and how did you overcome them?

I struggled with working with an NGO that works with marginalized communities because I believe, no matter how much the organization tries to overcome this label, having a “white savior complex” is plastered on anyone involved with the NGO because we come from a place of privilege in the US. I found it easier to assimilate because I am a native Spanish speaker and have similar values as those found in Peru. However, I know I am not exempt from the label of “white savior” because I am not of light complexion. Through the coursework required from my Global Poverty and Practice Minor I was able to really grasp the concept of relative poverty and privilege. I think this “white savior” feeling I have is never going to go away but overtime I hope to encompass a global citizen identity.

Do you feel like the Fellowship helped prepare you for this internship and if so, how?

In this internship, we were dealing with real life issues and problems. Our training was mostly “trial and error” and being part of the Fellowship made it easier for me to accept my failures because they encourage a similar teaching style.

Where do you want to go from here?

The people living in the shantytowns of Lima, Peru whom I had the privilege of working with, really inspired me to want to do more for my community than just the “band-aid solutions”. I want to work on making preventative healthcare a feasible goal in marginalized and low income communities that could help diminish many of the reoccurring chronic diseases that are present in those areas.

How might this affect your work with the Fellowship?

The people from the communities in this internship were so driven to find resources that would help them make progressive changes in their community. They have inspired me to put that much effort and dedication into the issues that I truly care about and so during my yearlong project with Fellowship this year I am excited to see where I can take it!

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