The year was started right with AMSA’s first opportunity to be a host school for the student exchange program, AMSEP. On January 16 to 22, 2013, AMSA-UERM welcomed second-year medical students from the National University of Malaysia to give them a firsthand experience of Filipino culture and the local healthcare system. This AMSEP was headed by Megan Bang-asan, of class 2016-A, alongside other students who were dedicated to making the whole event a success.
Day 1 started with a welcome dinner in Jollibee where they were introduced to the AMSA-UERM officers and members. The Malaysian delegates were treated to a Jolly Kiddie Party which was completed with parlor games and an exciting preview of the many activities prepared for them. To balance the whole experience, the activities prepared were 70% cultural and 30% academic. “We prepared hospital tours, class-room sit-ins and community exposures to cover the academic side of AMSEP. At the same time, we gave them a taste of rich Filipino culture by touring them in Intramuros and Luneta, letting them ride on calesas, and introducing as much traditional food as we could,” shared Mara Calingo, Head of the Tours committee.
A visit to Philippine General Hospital and St. Luke’s Medical Center showed the students a realistic glimpse of the current sit-uation in the Philippine medical system. Supplementing these visits was a Q&A session with the UERM Department of Preventive Medicine, who discussed the current state of our healthcare system and gave them an opportunity to visit a community health center. Classroom sit-ins and Operating Room exposures showed them what it’s like being a Filipino medical student.
Next, AMSA-UERM members brought the Malaysian delegates to where medical students would go to unwind. They had a friendly game of laser tag, sang karaoke, went shopping for pasalubong, and spent a day in the beautiful beaches of Batangas. But the highlight of their visit was discovering how it is to be a Filipino by tasting the famous local dishes – they tried everything from sinigang to dirty ice cream, and, of course, the infamous balut. “I have become Filipino!” Soon Chong Hong, one of the delegates, exclaimed after eating balut.
Finally, AMSA-UERM members welcomed the delegates to their homes at the end of their weeklong stay in the Philippines. “We wanted them to fully experience the life of a Filipino medical student,” Megan explained. “This, in fact, promoted more exchange of cultures between the students which is the ultimate goal of AMSEP.”
The AMSEP concluded with a Cultural Night themed as a Filipino fiesta. The Malaysian delegates showcased their dancing and singing skills while donning their traditional clothes as a way of thanking AMSA-UERM. Although the closing ceremony officially ended the exchange program, all those who participated felt like it was only the beginning of beautiful friendships forged through cultural exchange.