October 2, 2019
This is the first of two entries from University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy students who participated in the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation Student Exchange Program through the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists.
Harshin Sanjanwala, a second-year student pharmacist from Madison, Mississippi, traveled to Taiwan this summer. Read more about his journey below.
My time in Taiwan was absolutely phenomenal. I don’t know where to begin – the sudden pour of rain from a breezy typhoon, the mouth-watering sight of a bubble tea store on every corner or the beautiful, forest-green view from the peak of Yuanzui Mountain after a dangerous hike. APhA IPSF-SEP has given me international friendships and a research experience like no other, and I am incredibly thankful to have received help from my friends, family and the School of Pharmacy during the application process.
I spent the majority of my time doing research at China Medical University located in the city of Taichung. The project I worked on was focused on diabetes drug research. Specifically, I worked on DPP4 inhibitors (such as Sitagliptin), which are used to stimulate insulin release and inhibit glucagon release. I worked mostly in a lab setting, but there were often opportunities for us to go visit medicinal research lectures or go on hospital tours. China Medical University was a really incredible hospital to live right next to, and I was able to see how western medicine and Chinese medicine are used differently. Note: There are separate pharmacies in the same hospital for western and Chinese medicine!
One of the best parts of this experience was gaining a global perspective on pharmacy through conversations with students from various countries. Each country has a unique education system, and the health care and pharmacy systems are also different. By contrast, it was a great feeling to identify particular drugs that are used across borders. We truly are in an interconnected world with the unified goal of improving patient outcomes across the globe.
After lab, I would often spend time with the SEP officers in Taiwan or with my lab mates. We would explore the city of Taichung, or we would just relax and play some basketball, board games or even sing karaoke! The level of hospitality is unbelievable in Taiwan. My lab mates and SEP officers would often bring me gifts and pay for my meals. I could say “Ni hao/你好” to anyone in the city – and they would smile politely and say it back. Many would start a conversation in English with me! If they didn’t know English, some would pull out a translator on their phone and still try to be friendly towards me. I could also walk in the city at night alone without fear – Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world.
During the weekend, we could take a bullet train to visit different cities in Taiwan. I was able to visit Taipei, Kaohsiung and Tainan with some of my international friends. During one of our weekends, we visited the Alishan Mountains in Chiayi with some of the international students in Taiwan. Students working on research in other cities through the same program came together for a weekend on the top of a breathtaking mountain. We ended up making many unique and lasting memories, and I will never forget my friends from all over the world. In fact, after our weekend in Alisan, we still went out of our way to meet up in different cities during our travels!
This was truly one of the best months of my life. I highly recommend it, especially if you are open to travel and learning about other cultures! IPSF offers 88 countries to choose from and each has their own unique program. I recommend talking to Sophie Durham (our local exchange officer) in APhA, and that you start looking into the application soon. I also don’t mind giving you some tips to the application process!