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  • Writer's pictureShelby Cook

From Student to Intern: How Gaining Medical Experience Abroad Changed My Life

Updated: Mar 5

By Shelby Cook, 2023 PRO Costa Rica Student & 2024 PRO Costa Rica Intern

Let me tell you how LeadAbroad changed my life. My name is Shelby Cook and I am from a small town in Arkansas (I mean we literally only have one stoplight). As my LeadAbroad experience got closer, I went through all the emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety, joy... I was preparing for the adventure of a lifetime, BUT it dawned on me I was alone (or so I thought).

I had never traveled abroad alone, caught a flight alone, or been to a foreign country alone. Let me tell you what I discovered. I was not alone. The interns, fellows, students and staff at LeadAbroad were nothing short of amazing. They made my journey to Costa Rica so easy - from calming my nerves to answering all of my questions to making me feel valued and safe. When we arrived in San Jose I met my roommate, Arianna Fernandez, for the first time! She was an instant best friend and shoulder to lean on during this experience. We laughed, explored, and of course had nightly TikTok time!

I was so nervous being the only one from Arkansas going on the PRO Costa Rica Session 3 trip. I was scared that I wouldn’t find my people - but that was the farthest thing from the truth. Every single student that went on this trip with me changed my life. We were a tight knit group that did everything together - and I think it's one of the many reasons that made this trip so life changing.

Growing up I knew I wanted to be a doctor or something in the medical field but I had never done anything that truly solidified why I wanted to follow that path.

This experience made me realize that I don’t just want to be a doctor for the degree or the white coat. It was the hugs from the people in the San Jose community that made me want to be a doctor. It was the smiles, the laughter, the thanks, the hope, the joy, and the purpose.

I have found my calling. I want to be a doctor so I can serve others. LeadAbroad didn’t just provide a trip for students like me - they gave me a purpose and a goal for the rest of my life, and it's what I mean when I say LeadAbroad literally changed my life. I am eternally grateful to LeadAbroad for creating and maintaining this amazing program. 


Shelby will be joining our 2024 summer staff in Costa Rica as an intern the following year after her experience as a student!


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