Lessons Learned: 3 Soft Skills a Community-Based Learning Placement Can Teach You

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Study abroad is already an amazing opportunity, but to be able to participate in community-based learning while studying abroad is icing on the top. My program, London – Health Practice & Policy, had a community-based learning course that placed me at Healthwatch Tower Hamlets in London.

Healthwatch is an organization that acts as a liaison between the UK health system (NHS) and the public. I was exposed to different roles in the organization, which included outreach volunteer, research volunteer, and information and signposting volunteer. From these various positions, I learned several key factors: flexibility, open-mindedness/cultural sensitivity, and compassion.


Your community-based learning placement might not be your typical office job. The majority of my time was spent as an outreach volunteer where we filled out surveys from patients at Royal London Hospital, and we learned the strengths and weaknesses of the UK health system first-hand. I also assisted with data collection for research projects, such as Healthwatch’s mental health and medication project, which looks at the effects of mental health medication on patients and the available alternatives.

Open-mindedness/Cultural Sensitivity

Cultural sensitivity was something that stood out to me, as the majority of my coworkers were from the Middle East and wore the hijab and abaya. These women were mothers and high school girls. They were very welcoming and encouraging to me. Tower Hamlets is one of the less affluent areas of London. The area has one of the highest Muslim populations in the country, and it has established British Bangladeshi and Pakistani business and residential communities.


When you study abroad, you are not only able to live in a foreign country, but also to see, feel, and understand what these people go through every day. Through my community-based learning placement, I had a glimpse into the daily lives of different people: hospital patients, mental health patients, and even my coworkers.

At the end of each day, I was deeply moved by hearing so many different stories of their experiences, solidifying my passion for health. I was able to better understand the health system of the UK, the different structural hierarchies, and how each organization plays into the overall health system. 

Expand your study abroad experience with a community-based learning placement, and discover the Best Places to Study Abroad and Give Back to the Local Community.


Lydia Carr

Lydia Carr, 2018 IES Abroad Ambassador of the Year

IES Abroad London – Health Practice & Policy, Fall 2016 | Howard University

Lydia is from Jamaica, but she was born in Taiwan and grew up in Japan and Jamaica. Currently a senior, she is a Health Management Major at Howard University. Lydia loves to travel and enjoys giving back as an IES Abroad Ambassador.

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