Eric Carlsson, Nursing programme, Bugando Medical Centre, Tanzania (in English)

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My exchange at Bugando Medical Centre – Mwanza, Tanzania.

Habari. My name is Eric Carlsson, I am 25 years old and a nursing student at Jönköping University and this is my 5th semester. During September 27th – December 23rd 2016 I did an exchange semester at Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza, Tanzania. My thoughts behind this trip was that I wanted to grow as a human, get to know new people and hopefully get some friends for life, challenge myself out of my comfort zone, get experience from a different culture and also see how the healthcare system is in another country.

I travelled by myself but stayed at Serengeti Guesthouse where I lived together with nine people from other countries. They were either students or worked as doctors and nurses. Each one of us had a single room and we shared kitchen/ living room. We had a person who worked at the guesthouse and cleaned our room and was helpful in other ways when we had questions.

I did not stay the whole semester, just twelve weeks, so I travelled back to Sweden before Christmas. During my time in Tanzania I took two courses; HIV/AIDS and Medical & Surgical Nursing II. Normally you also study Community Health if you are here the whole semester. At this nursing school you will also have a lot of clinical practice during the semester, which gives you the opportunity to experience a lot of the things you have been learning during lessons.

As a nursing student in Tanzania you are expected to do all the clinical practice by yourself without any mentor. Nobody is responsible for you and give you something to do so you have to be straight forward and take own initiatives. Sometimes it is a challenge but it will also help you grow. There is always another student to ask if you do not understand or if you need help. It is also developing because you have to be creative and solve problems and situations with what you have and not focus on what is missing.

Besides school there is also a lot to do. In town you can go to different hotels and eat good food or swim in the pool or visit some of the local pubs or clubs. If you want to go for a holiday at the beach you can visit some local beach resorts - Mwanza is located next to Lake Victoria which is Africa’s biggest lake. If you want to go to more touristic areas or diving spots you can travel to the islands of Zanzibar or Pemba which are really beautiful. If you prefer adventure you can go on a safari to several national parks where you will see a lot of different animals and beautiful nature. If you have the money you can also climb Kilimanjaro.

The prices in Tanzania are very low if you compare to Sweden. It is expensive to do the touristic things like climbing Kilimanjaro or going on a safari but to live, eat, travel and shop in Tanzania is cheap. I spent only 3 dollars per day on food. Fruit like pineapple, mango, passionfruit and banana tasted so much better in a country where they are grown and had a lot more flavour.

The culture is different in some ways. You have to be very flexible in Tanzania and be prepared to change your mind about time and also about living standards. In general Swedes are very punctual which might clash a little with the Tanzanian view on time and planning. Things that are planned does not always happen the time they were supposed to; life is more “hakuna matata – no worries” and you will learn the motto “labda kesho – maybe tomorrow”. It is easy to find this challenging in the beginning but after some time you will acclimatise to it.

Have you been thinking about doing a semester abroad? Are you hesitating because of the long flight, the cultural clashes or the different language? To all of you I just want to say: it is worth it.

There will be challenges and you will be frustrated more than once but you will also find yourself in a beautiful country, meet inspiring people from all over the world, grow as a person and a nurse, share unforgettable moments with new friends and live another reality for a few months - all of this outside your comfort zone. In the end you will be happy and proud that you actually did it.

If you get the opportunity, take the chance and see where it takes you!

Karibu Tanzania!