Studying abroad is an unforgettable experience that gives students the chance to explore the world and see new perspectives beyond their reach. From May 26 to June 10, 11 College of Health and Human Services students (from various majors) traveled to Prague, Budapest and Berlin and immersed themselves in the European experience. They explored the historical, cultural, and social environments that Central Europe has to offer. More specifically students visited health care institutions and learned how they can apply Central Europe health care methods to their own disciplines.
The current health care system in Central Europe takes a patient-forward approach, with a focus on making health care accessible to everyone in the community. According to the World Health Organization, health care “should be universally accessible to individuals and families by means acceptable to them, with their full participation and at a cost that the community and country can afford.”
Jessica Chellsen, a second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student, experienced this initiative first hand at the Lekorice hospital in the Czech Republic. In her travel journal, Chellsen writes:
Today we went to Lekorice hospital to give cards and sing to the geriatrics wing. The hospital rooms were much more crowded than in the U.S., and the therapy room was not what we are used to, however, I loved how bright the rooms were.
It was so nice how a language was not required to make their day. Communicating via drawings, smiles, and gestures at the Lekorice Hospital gave me a headstart on my clinical this summer. Right now, I have a lot of patients who only speak Spanish.
Although I have access to interpreters, I still want to bond with my patients. This experience showed me how much you can communicate with your patients other than language, and I have been able to practice that.”
This was the takeaway Dr. Peggy Trueblood, professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, and Dr. Nancy Nisbett, professor in the Department of Recreation Administration, wanted students to be aware of. Both Trueblood and Nisbett oversaw the trip and said the chance to learn new techniques, while exploring the sites of these beautiful cities, was an added bonus.
“I want them to apply what they learned and experienced in Europe to their future careers,” Trueblood said. “They gained many new perspectives in diverse cultures that they otherwise would not.”
The many stops on their two-week adventure included visits and tours at the Charite Teaching Hospital’s Muscle and Bone Research Center, the Centre for Clinical Research at the Unfallkrankenhaus Berlin, the Otto Block Science Center and the National Military Hospital in Budapest, among others.
Part of the trip included visiting the Jedlička Institute and Schools, located in Prague. The institute specializes in the educational establishment for children and young people primarily with physical disabilities.
Communicative Sciences and Deaf Studies major, Hali Jorgensen, found the institute to be the highlight of her study abroad experience.
“I will take what I saw at the institute, from the colorful art on the walls to the interactive therapy material and apply it as I begin a career in a similar setting,” Jorgensen said. “I also learned a lot more about what a physical or occupational therapist would do in a school setting. It was fascinating to learn about different disciplines and how each therapist focuses on different aspects of functional life skills. With the broad scope of practice that speech-language pathology encompasses, I was able to learn and take home with me so much from of the countries, site visits and local people.”
For Chellsen, a visit to the National Equine Therapy Center for Children was beneficial to her clinical work as a physical therapy student. In her journal, she writes:
This equine center was amazing to me. I have a patient right now with intellectual deficits and she goes to an equine therapy center once a week. She talks about how much she loves her horse with every activity we do. I have to relate the PT exercise to how she can pet or play with her horse easier. I can only imagine how growing up as a child at this equine therapy center would be and how amazing it is the government covers most of the cost.”
Taking lessons from their experiences and putting it into practice is what encompasses the core value of study abroad opportunities. For students on the trip, it gave them a better perspective on their future careers in the health field.
For Recreation Administration major, Lucia Montiano, embarking on this journey was an eye opener – especially as she pursues a career in Therapeutic Recreation, a field not widely recognized in other parts of the world.
“I’m entering a field that is rapidly growing,” Montiano said. “Being able to visit Czech Republic, Germany and Hungary allowed me to truly realize that I must be an advocate for my upcoming profession. The practice is out there, and was made relevant on almost every single site we visited. However, it made me unsettled to see that it wasn’t a bigger job with higher pay, special schooling and certification to provide what true recreation therapy can offer.
Traveling to Europe and seeing Recreation Therapy’s effect on those of all ages and abilities in different countries has motivated me to not only inspire my clients with its benefits, but to network even further—enough to inspire other countries. Visiting Europe was the best decision I could have made in my college career.”
“I had so many new life experiences both experiencing new cultures and health care systems that will play a role in how I treat my patients,” Summer said. “I think this experience gave me more of an open mind to everything, and will help me be a better physical therapist.”
To see more of their journey check out the Department of Physical Therapy on facebook.
– Written by Rebeca Flores, CHHS Communication Student Assistant