ESP Internship Stories

Laura in Ghana

Laura Russo just came back to Amsterdam from her physiotherapy internship in Accra, Ghana and she wanted to share her adventures! Looking for some inspiration and tips for your next internship? You might find it right here!

How did you find out about this clinic?

I knew I wanted to go to Africa for my first placement but also wanted a professional, highly rated clinic. I looked at the database and narrowed down my options based on the reviews and started talking to previous students. I’ve always heard that Ghana was a safe and westernized African country but I wanted to be sure the clinic was good. I spoke to ESP student Cameron who went there in 2018 and told me I had to go! His passion for Western Africa really encouraged me to go and I am so happy I did.
Why did you want to share the experience there?
I wanted to share my experience here because a lot of students don’t come to Africa for their internships. It is certainly a big cultural change living here but the physiotherapy knowledge and patient care at Accra Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic is of high quality. I have a lot of freedom and am given an opportunity to practice every new skill that I learn. The clinic can accommodate 9 patients at a time and I am allowed to bounce around if I see an interesting case. The physios know what they’re doing here and I would love for more students to step outside of their comfort zone and volunteer their time in Africa.

” I would love for more students to step outside of their comfort zone and volunteer their time in Africa”

– Laura

World PT Day, September 8

Laura’s story is published on World PT, because both her story and the themes of World PT Day can hopefully inspire you as current or future physio! The WCPT has created the infographic below about the 2019 theme: Chronic Pain

What is the most precious memory of the internship?

There are so many memories here it is hard to pick just one. What made this experience overall were the people, especially my patients and physiotherapist team. From the start, everyone was so accommodating and kind and wanted to make sure that I experience Ghana the right way. It can be intimidating as a foreigner coming into a community where you are the minority in a culture tied so strongly to its’ roots. When I walk down the street people are constantly shouting “Hey Obroni! How are you?” Obroni means foreigner and this greeting is totally friendly and a natural way to say hi to someone from overseas. At work, I’ll never forget my colleagues ordering all sorts of Ghanaian foods for me the first and watching my reaction because everything here is spicy, but delicious. In return I showed them what hummus, guacamole, quinoa and stroopwafels are!!! They loved the stroopwafels. There was also a time when a patient invited me over for a coffee on a Sunday afternoon, and I showed up to a feast of homemade Ghanaian cuisine and over 30 of her family members came! Oh, and I’ll never forget the bring orange walls and printed curtains all over the clinic.
I also fundraised and raised over 600 euros for school supplies at a local school. That was an unforgettable experience and I’m hoping to continue it next year.

In what way did your ESP background allow you to contribute to the clinic?
The physiotherapy care here is very similar to my education at ESP. In fact, The Netherlands educated 15 Ghanaians and some graduated from ESP about 10 years ago.! Since the student body at ESP is so diverse I was easily able to communicate and assimilate to the cultural differences, accents and phrases used here.

Ghana and ESP

As Laura mentioned, ESP has a great connection to Ghana. From 2000 until today, 24 students from Ghana graduated from ESP or the GPEP, the program designed for students from Ghana. This group photo is actually from 2002! Can you recognize some people?
Students were taken into the extended family, the core value of ESP, yet the graduation ceremony was held in Ghana! Coming from Ghana to Amsterdam to study was culture shock for many students. Coming from Amsterdam to Ghana, was at least a great temperature shock for many lecturers…

Check the WPCT website for more interesting details on Ghana and physiotherapy


Is there anything else you would like to share?
The clinic works with a variety of cases but I’ve developed a really nice relationships with one of the physiotherapists who completed her education at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Her name is Sara Abassbhay and she’s an innovative, holistic, globe trotter physio that reminds me a lot of the students at ESP! She grew up in Canada but has worked in Asia, North America and Africa. She approaches every patient holistically and believes that human beings can be treated through various health sciences and alternative medicines that work with the mind and body. She’s constantly developing new projects and is currently working to implement vestibular rehabilitation, falls prevention, and dry needling to physiotherapists continuing education. I’ve learned some new skills outside the ESP curriculum, such as dry needling, cupping therapy and vestibular assessment. We’ve also gone rock climbing, salsa and done some yoga together! (Photo of her below)
Apart from the clinical and professional experience, what else have you enjoyed there?

I love going to the lively markets during my free time and buying local foods like mango, papaya, plantains, yam, chiles, but also fabrics and clothes. I’ve definitely developed my bargaining skills. I’ve also spent time rock climbing, going to the gym and working out with some of the local personal trainers. I’ve learned to cook some local dishes too, like banku, fufu, and okro stew. I traveled to surrounding villages to see historic slave trade castles, jungles, and mountains. Since I speak french I found my niche at the French Alliance in Accra. There is a large community of French speakers here since Ghana is surrounded by 3 francophone countries, Togo, Cote D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

Do you have any fatherly or motherly advice for the new generation of ESP students?
Challenge yourself by going outside your comfort zone. For one internship, do something different and thrilling. We are given the opportunity to do so. Talk to students about their experience there, reach out we want to help. I was extremely nervous about going to a developing country but I would do it 10x over. You will not only practice and grow your physiotherapy skills but gain a deeper understanding of yourself and how the rest of the world lives.

by Laura

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