Anezka Zakova, SCOPE
Ioannina, August 2011
University Hospital of Ioannina
Preparation for the journey
I arranged only a travel insurance, which included a help from professional translator and advocate in Greece, because I had heard that thefts are common here in big cities.
Ioannina is 450 km away from Athenes and 290 km from Thessaloniki, and so since it isn't one of the usual turistic destinations, it isn't completely easy to get there. I received the card of acceptance late, only two months ahead; cheap tickets were all sold out and it was a real problem to find something for a reasonable price. In the end, I flew to Thessaloniki with smartwings for 7000 Kč. From there, I took a bus for 30 Euros. Other possibilities were more expensive, e.g. a direct flight from Prague to Ioannin was 50 000Kč.
Organisation at the beginning of clerkship
I exchanged e-mails with my contact person who really helped me a lot; she was even interested in a feedback of my clerkship and in recommandations about improvement. My second contact person was waiting for me with her mother for hour and half at the bus station and then they took me to a hostel. The first day she took me to the hospital and then I have seen here only few other times, because she was the only one who could take care of us since other IFMSA members were all gone. We got a lot of help from our Greek neighbour from hostel, who studied art, and from Greek students of medicine I met at pediatrics.
I lived in a newly reconstructed student hostel with air-conditioning; the quality of accommodation was very good, better than in dorms. The hostel was 5 km away from the center. I stayed in a room for two and we shared one table and internet cable. There was wi-fi in the common room, but we often weren't able to connect. There was no kitchen, but there were two washing machines. We walked for about 10 minutes to the hospital from our hostel.
We recieved food for free twice a day – a lunch and a dinner – in the hospital cantine for the entire stay. The quality was awful. We heard there was also a university cantine but it was closed in August. The food was excellent in the town center in tavernas and fastfoods. (Be sure to try frappé, baklava, kaseropita, ice cream... I cannot list it all.)
There was two of us at pediatrics, me and a girl from Latvia. We made an agreement with the doctor that we'd arrive at 9 a.m. and leave at 1 p.m. We usually ended around 12 anyway, and sometimes even sooner, because there weren't many patients. I also spent a couple of days at neonatalogy; there, we started at 8:30 and ended around twelve as well. The clerkship was interesting for me, they have a completely different spectrum of diseases – I have seen patients with thalasemia for the first time and a lot of them. Our doctor was a hematologist; he was things to us a lot, and he asked us for differential diagnosis and treatement. We did physical exams and we took anamnesis with the help of Greek students. At the beggining it was tiresome having to wait for someone who would be there for us. But I understand that they were overwhelmed because there were Greek students at the pediatrics as well. They treated us and Greek students as well nicely; they were very cooperative and patient. I never felt any barrier in the sense of "I'm a doctor and you're only a student." They have a slightly different way of communication. I was surprised by their hygiene – they didn't wash their hands after treating every patient and they didn't use gloves for blood collection. I spent most of my time at the pediatrics, but I was also at pediatric nephrology, cardiology, rheumatology and neonatalogy.
I was ok with my English. Most of younger doctors and all of the students speak English. There was no problem with understanding in hospital, there was always someone who translated. It was worse at the bus station, only one person spoke English.
Ionannina is a small, peaceful and boring city; I would say it is safe. You'll get bored after four days. We had a good group of exchange students; we were always together and it was interesting.
Evening program – lots of clubs, bars, restaurants.
There are just three tourist attractions – an old castle, a lake with a small island and a cave.
The public transpost is funny, there are no schedules and the buses have big intervals.
There was no social programme; we had an invitation party with our contact person, she took us to the hospital the first day and she cared a lot about our arrival. At the end of the exchange she brought us our certificates and invited us to a party with her schoolmates from highschool; I also met her a couple of times in the city, but that was all. I planned and spent my free time with other exchange students; we usually went to the city center in the afternoons and evenings. We met Greek students of medicine at the hospital and other students, Greek and others, so we hanged out a lot with all of them.
Evaluation of local IFMSA ( 1-5)
There was no social programme and the contact person was gone for most of the time. We could write her or call her if we needed anything but I thing they could have planned this better. Also, we could have had better food. I got a lot of help from my other contact person with whom I communicated via email. I would give them a 2.
I liked it at pediatrics a lot so I only travelled on weekends. I valued a day at the beach more than sightseeing, so I usually went to the beach at weekends. One day we would and the other we would go somewhere in the evening or have a lunch in the center. Travelling in Greece is expensive, especially the accommodation. Most of the exchange students travelled a lot.
Some food in shops is more expensive than in Czech Republic; in tavernas and restaurants, it is aproximately the same, but you get bigger portions of great food. Bevarages are more expensive, 330ml of beer cost 5 euros.
My friend got ill, she had a fever and a cold; nobody wanted to treat her and when they did they said it was only virosis. She had a fever of around 39°C for a week, then they send her to a different hospital where they finally gave her antibiotics.
We were a great group of exchange students. Communicating with them and Greek students was my best experience.
Surprises and cultural differences
The shops are open from 9 a.m. to 14 p.m. every day and then only on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 17:30 to 21:00. Banks are opened from 8:00 to 14:30 on work days. They weren't willing to accept ISIC anywhere. People there communicate differently.
agness.z (at) centrum.cz
The Greeks never rush anywhere and they don't worry a lot. They are kind, nice and friendly when they talk; I cannot speak for all of them, but those I met were like this. They knew Czech Republic, Czech athletes and modeles; they all tell you that Prague is beautiful and that it's cold here. It is good if you learn a couple of basic words and phrases; they are very pleased with this common decency. It's all about the people; if you're lucky, the exchange is awesome.