What it’s like to write your Global Health Master’s thesis in Colombia – An Interview

In my previous blog I wrote about Rachel Bergman’s experience of writing her Global Health Master’s thesis in Zambia. In this blog, I will take you to the other side of the ocean to see how Louise Hellberg is doing in Colombia.louise.jpg

Q. Firstly, can you tell me about your academic and professional background?

A. I studied nursing at the Red Cross University Collage in Stockholm and graduated with a Bachelor in nursing science after 3 years. My first nursing job after graduation was at Ersta sjukhus, where I worked with palliative care, which is care at the end stage of life. After some time there I wanted to try something completely different so I started working with pediatric care at Astrid Lindgrens Childrens hospital. Then I got admitted to KI and started this 1-year Master program.

Q. Why did you decide to pursue a Master’s in Global Health at Karolinska Institutet?

A.  I wanted to understand the system of healthcare better, to comprehend how the setting I work in is managed and governed. Furthermore, I find it interesting to work with prevention and to focus upstream in preventing disease and suffering. As a nurse the job is often more about putting out fires.

Q. Can you tell me about your Master’s thesis? What is the research question and what methodology are you using?

A. My research is about how gender based violence affects internally displaced women in Colombia. I am using qualitative methods and I am doing a narrative analysis.

Q. When choosing your topic, were you influenced more by the methodology, the global health topic or the context?

A. I was influenced by the context when I chose my topic. Gender based violence is a great challenge in Colombia and the country has one of the highest estimates of internally displaced people in the world. My research is part of a bigger study and there was good secondary data previously sampled on the topic from this bigger study, which made it a good choice for my research project.

Q. For how long will you be in Colombia? Are you only there for data collection, or will you write the whole thesis there?

A. I will write my whole thesis in Colombia.

Q. Did you have to pay for your trip/ accommodation yourself, or did you get any financial assistance?

A. I am a Swedish citizen so I could apply for the Linnaeus Palme scholarship, which is a scholarship that promotes and supports students who want to do research in low- and middle-income countries. To get the scholarship you need to apply with a personal letter and previous academic merits. It is also required that you stay in the country where you will do your research for 3 months. The scholarship amounts to 20 000 sek.

Q. Can you tell me about your preparations before leaving?

A. I am renting a room in an apartment that I found on my own through a website called AirBnb. I live with two kind and social Colombian men, about 45 min walking distance from the university. I had very little contact with the university that I am studying at right now before arrival. This was something that I felt worried about before arrival because I had no idea what to expect on arrival. I have one supervisor here in Colombia and one in Sweden. The contact with the university and my supervisor here in Bogota has improved immensely since I came here.

Q. What were your expectations and have they been met so far?

A. I had no idea how it would be to study here in Bogota before arrival, because of the poor contact with the university beforehand. I am enjoying my time here very much and I am very happy I took the decision to come here even though I sometimes felt very insecure about it before I came here.

Q. Would you recommend students to pursue their thesis abroad and why?

A. 100 % yes! It is a great experience and you get a much better understanding of the research’s context. It is a little difficult to focus on the thesis sometimes because there are many other exciting things that draw your attention, but I find that to be a luxury problem!

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