Saying goodbye has to be the task that I hate the most, especially after having met so many passionate and motivated medical students from all over the Americas. Discussions and debates, but also smiles and laughs, shaped our blossoming friendships throughout the standing committee sessions. As a reward after days of small working groups, we had the chance to escape the resort, in which we were confined, to the beaches surrounding the small neighbouring village of Los Cobanos.
After a walk on a rock trail, we reached the beach where sea turtles’ eggs were collected and incubated to protect them from natural predators. Since many eggs hatched the previous night, egg farmers waited for the tide to rise to release the baby turtles. We had the chance to witness these frail creatures heading to the wilderness the open sea is, and even got to cup a small turtle in our hands. As we were rejoicing on this incredible experience, one of the egg farmers revealed that baby turtles, after being touched by human hands, actually have a harder time getting to the sea. My enthusiasm scaled down, because my unwanted help is harmful.
As I walked through the dusty roads of Los Cobanos, free dogs and cats wandering around, I wondered if, as medical students, our help would sometimes bring more harm than help. After spending four days speaking full-time about how we could intervene to promote a healthier sexual way of life among target populations and to advocate for reproductive rights in most conservative countries, the little doubt that our help may not always be useful began to sprout in my mind.
Oh, it’s not true, isn’t it ? As new friends kept waving goodbye at me and pulling their suitcases away, my heart sank as my sight got blurry: we always hope those goodbyes will not be farewells. While roads parted, plans of reunion sparked and ideas of awareness projects were shared, like we were still in session. Medical students have that incredible strength to believe that, no matter what, we will always have the choice to ignite change in any moment of our lives.
The first change, of course, will be to transform those farewells in “au revoir”. Tomorrow, I will already fly back to my hometown, my head still in the clouds, airy with the brand new ideas and motivation I’ve brought back in my suitcase.