Written by Marie My Warborg Larsen
Marie My Warborg Larsen is a Public Health student and member of IMCC Uland Kenya. In August she participated in the IFMSA General Assembly, where members from MSAKE, IMCC Uland Kenya’s partner organisation, also should have attended, although this turned out to be a long, tiresome process with an unfair result.
In August I participated in IFMSA’s General Assembly (GA) in Mexico as part of the International Medical Cooperation Committee (IMCC) delegation. IFMSA stands for The International Federation of Medical Students Associations, of which IMCC and our partners, MSAKE in Kenya and EMSA in Ethiopia, amongst other partners of IMCC, are member organisations. The GA is a week of meetings where students from all over the world meet to discuss health issues, vote on issues concerning the federation, and elect the board and directors.
After I was selected to represent the Danish delegation we, the IMCC group and our partners in MSAKE, began to apply for a networking activity through the Danish Youth Council (DUF), in order for us to meet in Mexico to strengthen our partnership. For a medical student in Kenya, or actually for any medical student, a trip to Mexico is quite expensive. Therefore, we applied for funding through DUF. At all of the GA’s in IFMSA the African region is sadly under-represented. We were therefore eager to have this opportunity for the representatives from MSAKE to attend the GA. Furthermore, a networking activity would give us, the members of MSAKE and IMCC, a chance to meet, to work on our project and strengthen our partnership.
A beetroot colored passport por favor!
The smiles were big when our application for the networking activity was approved – we were all going to meet in Mexico! Unfortunately, we had forgotten one thing: Kenyans do not have beetroot colored passports, as counts for the Danes. The first problem at hand was therefore buying the plane tickets. Most flights to Mexico go through the USA and for a Kenyan to get a visa to the USA is almost as hard as getting a Kenyan to say “Rødgrød med fløde” (a Danish saying, which almost only fluent Danish speakers can pronounce). But finally! We found a route where a stopover visa was not necessary. However, another difficulty presented itself. We still needed the Mexican visa.
For almost a month we wrote back and forth with the Mexican embassy and collected all kinds of different documents. At one point I simply had to ask James from MSAKE if he was sure that they were applying for a tourist visa and not a working visa. I simply could not understand why this was so difficult, and I thought they were asking for a lot of weird, unreasonable documents. James responded: “they ask for all that information for all visa types #3rdworldcountriesproblems!”
In the end we never got the visa in time. Our colleagues from MSAKE were therefore unable to travel to Mexico, whilst we, from IMCC, were able to. But we all learned a lot in the process and next time we will succeed! In the meantime, I will rejoice in my beetroot colored passport and keep on pushing for equal opportunities for all. In this way, meetings like the IFMSA GA can truly be international collaborations between students worldwide, and not only those with higher privileges.