Public Health in Mexico program overview and celebrating Australia day in Puebla

My name is Lucy and I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Nursing at ACU’s Melbourne campus. I decided I was in need of an adventure and have always really wanted to study abroad but I soon found out that this can be difficult with Nursing compared to other degrees. I however had a friend that told me about this program that she had completed in her third year of Nursing called “Public Health in Mexico”, which is organised by a private company called AIM Overseas Australia. I decided to apply and this is how I’m sitting here writing from Mexico City, a busy, exhilarating city that has a population of nearly 22 million people, just under the total estimated population of Australia. So crazy!

The Program only goes for four weeks and it entails part time studying at the La Salle University and attending site visits to various healthcare facilities in Mexico City and some outer rural areas. It has been an incredible experience so far, being able to first handily experience the healthcare system by listening to and observing professionals in the hospital setting. I have visited an aged care residence, AID’s clinic, paediatric hospital, rural birthing clinic and a private general medical hospital.

I have personally been surprised with the standard of health care, expecting much worse in comparison to Australian standards. One thing we keep being reminded of by locals and our lecturer’s is that Mexico is actually not a poor country. Rather there is just a greater divide between the poor and the extremely rich, with poor government distribution and allocation of funds and resources, especially in the healthcare sector.

Along with studying and site visits there has been a huge focus on the Mexican culture and history of the country. To experience the culture not only by staying with a local Mexican host family, the program has also included various trips to important tourist destinations and incorporated Spanish language, salsa dancing and Mexican cooking classes into our trip.

The Australian embassy located in Mexico actually heard about the program and was very interested in meeting with the group of 26 ladies all the way from Australia. This meeting happened to be a few days before Australia day and they invited us to a barbeque that was being held at the embassy on the 26th. We were all very excited and keen to celebrate this day with fellow Australians however we were soon informed about having a weekend trip planned to a Spanish Colonial town called Puebla, just two hours drive from the city.

We all left on Saturday the 25th and spent a lovely day exploring the town and shopping at handy craft markets. Due to the time difference back home, we spent that night live streaming Triple J’s Hottest 100 from our hotel room, eating vegemite on salada biscuits and drinking a Corona because that was the only beer to be found. We also had the Australian Open on in the background and were all very amused by the Spanish voice overs.

The next day we all applied Australian tattoos to our cheeks and even gave one of our fellow Mexican teacher Oscar a tattoo which he applied to the back of his bald head. For breakfast we made our coordinator Margot try vegemite on toast and it is fair to say she was slightly confused and when asked if she liked it, she politely replied with “it’s quite salty”. We spent the day at a historical museum and another market and actually found a stall selling boomerangs and an American guy that was so excited to see all of us, shouting “HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY”.  All the other locals in Puebla seemed unsure as to why were being so patriotic with our flag on our cheek and seemed to laugh as we walked by. It felt different being away in a foreign country and celebrating Australia day, however with my 25 other fellow Australian friends and being able to share the experience with our new Mexican friends, it will be an Australia day that I will never forget.