When College of Biological Sciences junior Ben Lueck found out about the U of M’s learning abroad program in Cuernavaca, Mexico two years ago, he saw the exact opportunities he was looking for: to observe another country’s medical system and enhance his Spanish-speaking skills with training in medical terminology. But, as it turns out, learning how to ask a patient for their symptoms wasn’t the only new knowledge he brought back with him.
“I definitely became much more fluent,” says Lueck. “But the things I remember most are seeing hospitals and learning about traditional medicine. [Before going to Mexico] I wasn’t even open to the idea that things could be different,” says Lueck.
Lueck’s experiences in Cuernavaca opened his eyes to what it’s like to practice medicine in another country and culture. Visiting hospitals, clinics, and a traditional medicine museum, and taking classes with teachers who work in the Mexican medical system provided Lueck with unexpected insights into how culture and history impact healthcare delivery.
On returning home to Minnesota, the microbiology major sees a direct connection with his aspiration to become a doctor. “Learning about Mexico’s health system from people who work in it and know it opened my eyes to things back here, to why our system is the way it is, and culture actually plays a surprisingly large role. Recognizing that everyone sees things differently based on their life experiences was valuable for me,” says Lueck, who believes that gaining intercultural competence will be critical in his work with patients in years to come.
"You walk into a hospital here in the Twin Cities and you might be working with someone from anywhere in the world,” says Lueck. “It’s important to understand that they might speak differently than you. They might dress differently than you. They might think differently than you. And it’s because they’ve seen different things than you, they’ve done things in different ways.”
– Lance Janssen