Studying Medicine In Cuba: A Journey Worth Exploring

On Friday the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department welcomed home 260 Cuba trained students who are soon to be doctors. The group which left in 2012 will be spending 18 months in South African universities to complete their studies and graduate as doctors. A 25-year-old Lungile Ncanana from Umlazi, south Durban shared her journey with The Daily Vox.

I was only nineteen years old when I left for Cuba. I was very excited but as soon as I reached the airport on my day of departure, I realised that I was leaving my family behind. It felt a little scary but because I knew what I wanted, I got excited all over again. It wasn’t easy but my mother was very supportive and she gave me strength.

When I first arrived in Cuba the only challenge I faced was the language barrier, in fact this was everyone’s worst nightmare. None of the people we met on the first day could speak English, everyone spoke Spanish. The scariest thing was knowing that this is the same language that would be used in our academic. We had to try by all means to familiarise ourselves with the basics; and six years later, here we are.

Lungile Ncanana. (Image supplied)

Now that I’m back home I’m looking forward to start with my practicals. I know that we will be placed in peripheral areas and I’m so eager for that, Cuba prepared us for such. We had to endure inclement weather conditions going from door to door asking people if they are sick and examining them. This has really prepared me to work with people from areas where they can’t reach healthcare facilities. If I have to walk all the way to them, through sunny or rainy days, that’s what I will do.

But first, I need to do my practicals first because in Cuba we didn’t have enough infrastructure to practice, I’m more armed with theoretical knowledge which I believe is more required in the public health sector.

Back in Cuba I never really had any challenges; the syllabus is quite similar. The only challenge really was missing home all these years. There was a time when we lost some of our fellow students; it was a difficult time for all of us and we’d phone home crying. My mother held me together during this time and assured me that death happens everywhere. We had to accept that our friends were gone and life had to go on.

This has been a milestone in my life and a journey worth exploring. I am honoured to have been given this opportunity because in South Africa, it would have been a daunting process to get into a medical school. I am now ready to realise my dream.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons