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Campus Life

My ASB Experience

By Austin MacDonald

Originally I applied to the ASB program ( on the recommendation of a friend without knowing too much about it. I knew that it was a "volunteer abroad experience" and my friend reported that he had a good time, but I didn't know too much beyond that. Having always wanted to be a doctor, when I heard that that ASB offered the opportunity to go into medical clinics I was very interested. I decided to apply and was fortunately chosen to be a part of the Costa Rica medical team for the reading week of 2013.

I knew absolutely no one who was going on the trip with me. This was a little scary but also really exciting as I enjoy meeting new people. We had a weekend of orientation and got together a few times as a team before the trip but essentially we left the country as 18 strangers.

I had high expectations for my trip to Costa Rica but nothing could have prepared me for the experience that was to come. Very quickly I learned that the ASB program was more than just "volunteering abroad". It was a chance not only to serve a community in need but the experience opened my eyes to the world around me. We worked with a local organization named "International Service Learning" (ISL). ISL paired us up with local guides and doctors. With these local ISL members we went into poor communities where we interacted with locals and set up medical clinics.

We went right into people's homes during house calls; some of which were not much larger than my bedroom. This not only shocked many of us but also allowed heightened our awareness to how fortunate we are for what we possess in our own lives. I originally thought that we were going to "help" the people of Costa Rica but I think in the end they actually helped me. I found it truly amazing how people with so little could still be so happy in life. Meeting the people was the highlight of the trip for me.

This ASB experience not only helped me in my personal life but in my professional life as well. I gained valuable clinical experience by being able to do hands-on medical examinations in the clinics and by talking to the Costa Rican doctors. I was also able to discuss my ASB experience in my medical school interview in March. I was accepted to McMaster medical school and this ASB experience will certainly stay with me throughout my career. I met so many great people: my adult and student leaders, the ISL staff, the people in the communities and of course my team. I left London with 17 strangers but returned with 17 friends and memories that will last forever.

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