How Volunteering Enriched My Semester: Rebecca, Georgetown University

For Rebecca, Georgetown University, studying public health in Sweden, one of the most effective healthcare systems in the world, was the ideal scenario.

During Rebecca’s semester abroad at DIS Stockholm, she enrolled in the Public Health Program, where her core course investigated the relationship between migrants and existing healthcare structures, with Sweden in focus.

In addition to her courses at DIS, Rebecca went the extra mile to land herself a volunteership at a local organization, the Swedish Society of Medicine. Read her interview to hear what she gained this semester:

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About you

DIS: What are your career aspirations and passions?

Rebecca F.: I have always been interested in working in the healthcare field. I have recently become increasingly interested in the global health approach, and have switched my focus on the global initiative and policy side of health care. My main goal is to have a career that allows me to help improve the health care that people all around the world have to ability to receive.

DIS: Why did you decide to come abroad to DIS and in Stockholm?

RF: I decided to come to DIS Stockholm because I knew that I wanted to be in Europe for my semester abroad. As a science major, I needed a program that offered competitive science classes in English, and DIS Stockholm offers a lot of science classes taught by incredibly impressive professors.

Also, Sweden is known for having one of the most effective public health systems, so given my interest in public health and health policy, I wanted to the opportunity to get first-hand experience in a nation with this type of healthcare system.

>> Read about the Public Health Program here

>> Find all public health courses here

Your volunteership with the Swedish Society of Medicine

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DIS: How did you come up with the idea of volunteering abroad?

RF: Going abroad was a big decision for me — I knew that I soon needed professional experience to further my career aspirations, but I also realized that it would be an incredible experience to volunteer abroad.

Also, I wanted to really experience Stockholm and meet Swedish people in my field. I thought it would be really important to gain more hands on experiences that would show me what working in a Swedish city would actually be like, in addition to the student experience.

DIS: How did you find out about the opportunity?

RF: When I arrived in Stockholm, I found out that my Social and Residential Advisor (SRA) worked in public health, so I reached out to her to see if she knew of any opportunities or organizations that would be open to me working with them. She then put me in contact with the Swedish Society of Medicine, and they welcomed me on to one of their projects where they could use the extra hand.

DIS: What is the mission of the Swedish Society of Medicine?

RF: The Swedish Society of Medicine’s mission is to create a network of students and professionals working in the healthcare field in Sweden. They hold forums and meetings to share ideas and foster new projects, as well as create a platform in which people can form networks and mentorship relations. Currently, they are focusing on increasing Sweden’s role in global health and furthering the progress of the World Health Organization’s sustainable development goals.

DIS: What goals do you have for this semester while volunteering there?

RF: I have been helping them plan their first national global health conference. This includes attending their planning meetings and sharing my student perspective on what would make their conference effective.

Mainly, I have been researching past global health conferences to learn from their impacts. I have been reaching out to the organizers of past conferences all around the world, but focusing on the U.S. and Nordic countries, such as Sweden, to get advice on what they find valuable in a conference. Also, I looked through the outcome documents of many conferences to get an understanding of how each specific conference was successful in making a difference in global health.

After analyzing the outcomes of other global health conferences, I have been working on ways to better the impact of the Swedish Society of Medicine’s conference.

DIS: Tell us about the event that you are organizing this semester on their behalf.

RF: I have been organizing an event as part of their global health week that is a prequel to the larger conference. I invited other DIS students to come and join Swedish students and professionals to share their experiences and perspectives on global health. DIS students come from all different universities, so I asked each of them to look into what their university was doing in the global health field to inspire one another. Global health is a growing field that takes cooperation across borders, so it is really cool to be able to put American students in contact with Swedish students and professionals.

Sweden has a working culture that is very inclusive and holistic, so even though I was just a volunteer, they really valued what I had to say and gave me a lot of responsibility.”

Your future and career

DIS: Does this volunteership have relevance to your core course?

RF: The core course that I am in is public health and migration, so the work that I have been doing for this volunteership has been very relevant to that course. For example, in class, we learn about the different organizations that have sponsored projects or protocols that have improved overall global health, and then at my volunteership, I would have to reach out to those same organizations to try and collaborate. The background information that my core course has given me has been incredibly useful.

DIS: Has this experience given you access to Swedes and locals?

RF: My volunteer experience has proven to be a great networking opportunity because have been able to meet and interact on a personal and professional level with Swedes that are in my field of interest.

Everyone that I have met through the Swedish Society of Medicine I have really enjoyed working with! I also have worked with and met a lot of local students which I think is incredibly valuable.

It is really interesting to gain the Swedish student perspective on global health and learn what the future generation of Sweden thinks about the field that I hope to work in. I mostly speak English when I am volunteering, but it has been helpful to learn some professional terminology in Swedish in combination with the Swedish Language and Culture course that I take at DIS.

DIS: How will this volunteer experience help you build your resume while abroad? Do you see international work in your future?

RF: This experience had helped me build my resume because I was able to work in a professional environment in a foreign country. Additionally, Sweden has a working culture that is very inclusive and holistic, so even though I was just a volunteer, they really valued what I had to say and gave me a lot of responsibility. The Swedish Society of Medicine really pushed me out of my comfort zone to improve my professional skills.

How will you follow your passions abroad?

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