Internships Abroad, GRIP Positive Culture Shock

June 26, 2023
By Ruqaiyyah Lucas-Caldwell, CAS '24

World Medical Association, Ferney-Voltaire, France

I experienced culture shock in my first few days here.

But not in a negative way at all.

It was a positive one because I was so surprised to see how diverse Geneva was. There are so many different cultures and people here. Any type of cuisine you may desire is here so I often hit up the Lebanese halal spot for lunch and then the Senegalese restaurant right down the street for dinner. Everything is so diverse and it is something that I really appreciate. I was also so surprised to see how easy it is to travel between France and Switzerland! No ID, no long lines, I just hop on the bus and go!

Spanish was my language of choice in school and while there are many French words that sound and look similar to Spanish words, there is definitely still a language barrier. But that does not stop me from interacting with people. Most people here speak a little bit of English and for the ones that don’t, I am not afraid to pull out the Google translate. When I hear an American accent on the street, I usually reach out to ask where the person is from and this is actually how I befriended some students living in Geneva.

I was surprised to see how easily I have integrated into this society. Everything feels so normal. People come up to me and speak French and at times because I’ve heard the phrase so often I can reply back in English or in one word French answers. But as I continue living here I will become even more adapted where I will be able to say more in French.

I am still developing a routine for myself. I reserve Mondays after work for journaling by the Lake, catching up with family, and stopping by a gelato place. I pick up groceries on Saturdays because usually stores are closed on Sundays! I do my laundry early on Saturday so that my clothes will be air dried later that evening. I am making a life here for myself and while I miss the US dearly and its everlasting convenience of stores being open everyday, I can see myself living in Geneva even after this internship is over.

Ruqaiyyah Lucas-Caldwell at the UNThe first week of my internship at the WMA began with me sitting in on crucial conversations at the World Health Assembly, hosted by the World Health Organization. I met so many people from all over the world, including Ministers of Health, people working at NGOs, and funnily enough even a physician from Penn. A big topic of discussion were NCDs or noncommunicable diseases, such as cancers and sickle cell anemia. Conversations that greatly interested me were ones regarding HPV and how it causes cervical cancer if not caught and treated early. Representatives from different countries advocated for strengthening their healthcare systems to increase vaccination and also be able to diagnose and treat HPV earlier.

Currently, I am reviewing and revising WMA’s declarations that need to be updated, such as one regarding HPV. I have a deep interest in women’s health and I am so glad that this internship allows me to explore it even more!

When I imagine myself working in healthcare, I see myself as a clinically practicing doctor, visiting patients, doing rounds, and performing surgery. In addition to that I also see myself advocating and working to develop policy regarding health to change the lives of people around the world.

I love it here. I am excited to see what’s in store for the next few months at WMA and to see how much I will grow being here. Until next time!

The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce.