Suk, 18, who graduated from Ward Melville High School in June, decided to take a year off in between high school and college to pursue volunteer and educational opportunities abroad – and landed in Mongolia through the program Projects Abroad, which has connected students and adults with volunteer opportunities all over the world for more than 20 years.
Suk recently returned from a monthlong stay in Mongolia, a country that sits between Russia and China, where he spent two weeks in a high school medicine program.
"We shadowed doctors and got to learn about the health care and medical system within the main capital," he said, adding that he got to experience close-up observations of a gall bladder removal surgery as well as surgeries on an eye, heart and prostate.
He noted that the country's health care system "is very understaffed."
"They have to meet the needs of many thousands within one district," he said. "They do depend on a lot of foreign aid to acquire technology, a larger staff. The city itself is still structurally very underdeveloped. It was interesting to see a culture developing like that."
After the medical component of his trip, Suk spent two weeks teaching beginner-level English for children and adults at a small school while staying with a host family."I learned a lot about how the country is still developing," he said. "A lot of progress is needed for the country to become modernized, particularly with the medical system."
Overall, he called the trip "a huge cultural shock experience."
Suk said he plans to study medicine when he does enroll in college. But for now, he said he will continue looking for volunteer opportunities locally, possibly at Stony Brook University Hospital, and may even pursue an EMT program.
"It’s interesting helping people," he said. "It fosters a lot of communication between people. You get to learn a lot of things."