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A trip abroad wasn’t part of the summer plan for Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation students Jasmine Dahdal and Zoe Zimmerman, until it was.
The pair of senior nursing majors were recruited to apply for the Sichuan University Immersion Program by Edson College Clinical Assistant Professor and Global Health Collaboratory Assistant Director Aliria Muñoz Rascón.
“Thanks to recent connections and trips to China by Edson College senior leadership, we were told about this great opportunity and were especially interested in letting our students know about it and supporting them through the process of applying and participating,” Muñoz Rascón said.
The two-week-long program sent Dahdal and Zimmerman more than 7,000 miles from Arizona to Chengdu, China, for a unique and in-depth experience.
“Sichuan University brings students from all over the world to get immersed in their culture, in their ways of life and the major they're a part of. We were a part of the nursing group so we learned how they practice through visits to their hospitals and conversations with nurses and educators,” Dahdal said.
Beyond the hospital walls, the students were able to explore and observe Chinese culture and customs up close. Both of them took advantage of the free time in their schedule to visit the sights and soak up all that Chengdu has to offer.
Still, it was the time spent in the hospital and with their future nurse peers that stuck out as the highlight of the trip for both women.
“I liked seeing how different it was. We went to several different units and it was fascinating. Even just looking at the equipment — overall it’s similar to what we have here but it was cool to see the differences and similarities,” Zimmerman said.
Dahdal said what came into focus for her was the singular thread that connects all nurses, no matter the difference in practice, language or even technology.
“Seeing the nurses there and how caring they are toward their patients, it’s, in general, the same here, the way that the nurses see their patients, the way they treat their patients, the way they love their job and the way they put so much effort into taking care of each person,” she said.
Those takeaways are just the most recent examples of why Edson College is diligently working to expand its footprint abroad. In fact, the college created a new unit called the Global Health Collaboratory earlier this year to develop global collegiate partnerships, expand certificate programs to nontraditional students and grow international student and faculty exchange opportunities.
Not only does international exposure open students’ eyes in the short term, it lays the groundwork for their future practice as they draw on these experiences to inform their day-to-day interactions in the health care industry.
“I think it’s important to provide our students with opportunities to see the world of health care through a different lens. It broadens their perspectives on what it means to be a nurse or health care provider and can help improve their cultural humility and cultural competence. But even beyond the health aspect, these experiences also help students learn about themselves. It forces them to sometimes take a step back and realize their worldview isn’t the only one and may not translate in different environments,” Muñoz Rascón said.
So the Global Health Collaboratory has been pursuing ways to ensure that even more students have the chance to interact and learn from cultures beyond their own.
The next step for the college is to connect with undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in international health at an event later this month. The Edson Global Citizens Interest Group will meet from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26 in Health North Room 110.
On the agenda is an explanation of the various global opportunities and partnerships the college already has, plus a look ahead to some of the exciting things in development.
Also, attendees can expect an honest dialogue about some of the current challenges that limit a student’s ability to participate in global programs.
“We recognize that some of these current international offerings like study abroad are not always feasible for every student; the cost can be a big barrier. Our aim is to be creative in coming up with opportunities so we can meet a lot of different needs for all students in Edson College,” Muñoz Rascón said.
This trip was a gamechanger for both Dahdal and Zimmerman and what helped make it a reality was the fact that the cost was covered. So they’re on board with the college’s goal to make the type of experience afforded to them a reality for future students.
“The more cultural experiences you have, the better, because you never know who you are going to come across in the hospital or wherever you're practicing. People live different lives and think differently than you — so that exposure helps you treat them better,” Dahdal said.
“They teach us that you need to be culturally competent as a nurse, but it's hard to be culturally competent to your full potential unless you’ve actually experienced other people’s cultures. I mean, we can sit through lectures but learning and reading about something in a textbook is so different than seeing it and actually experiencing it,” Zimmerman said.
RSVP for the Edson Global Citizens Interest Group meeting. Refreshments will be provided.