The University of Texas at Austin
Skip navigation links

Grant Makes Student's Journey Possible

Ellie Nielsen is the 2012 recipient of the Exploration Experience Grant, and a Natural Sciences student majoring in Math. The grants are awarded annually to students seeking funds to promote academic and career exploration. Past recipients have used the money to teach English to elementary school children in Cuzco, Peru; fund participation in the Halliburton Business Foundations Summer Institute; and study medicinal plants in South America. Ellie Nielsen used her grant to try out a possible career: medicine. This is the summer in her words.

My hopes for this summer were to get a quick glance of the medical field. But my trip to Honduras quickly turned into much more than that. For the last week of summer break I was volunteering in a small village in Honduras along with forty other students who were all future medical and dental students as part of Global Medical Brigades. I flew to Tegucigalpa, Honduras on the 16th of July. Flying in you could see tons of little cinderblock homes packed together, nothing like the landscape of flying over the United States. From Tegucigalpa, we were picked up by our program coordinators for the trip and took a two hour drive east, into the mountains with incredible views, along skinny roads cluttered with pot holes, to our home for the week.

The first afternoon was all preparation and sorting of the medications we brought. But during all this our group really started to get to know each other. One of the best parts was getting to bond with all the other students on the trip who shared the same goals and interests that I do. That night also included a trip down the road to a boys’ school where we played soccer against them and tried our hardest to get around the language barrier to hear their stories.

The next day we continued to sort medicines in the morning. Then in the afternoon we took a trip to an orphanage nearby. I didn’t really know what to expect but as soon as we walked through the gates, kids would come up and grab someone’s hand and bring them to come play. It was very touching. We played with them all afternoon and again tried to communicate with our broken Spanish.

The next day was our first day actually out in the community, actually running the medical part of our trip. We had brought along a doctor and a dentist and medications. And two other doctors who worked in Honduras joined us. We traveled to a school Jutiapa, where we set up our clinic. We arrived to a huge line of people waiting to be seen. Inside, we set up stations, which we would send people through and which we rotated around helping with. The first place people would go was triage where we would take their vital signs and briefly go over their symptoms. Then they would go to the doctor consultation, where they actually met with the doctor and he prescribed them medications. After that, they had the choice to visit the OB/GYN doctor and the dentist. From there, patients were brought into another classroom, where we presented a short lesson on hygiene and dental care. Then lastly, each patient visited the pharmacy station where they picked up the medicines that had been prescribed to them.

We went to this community and set up our mini clinic for thre