Over Spring break, seven groups of students set out on international experiences. CHHS requires all undergraduates to experience international travel in order to receive their degree. Although any international program that offers college credit class: HHS 350. This semester-long class spends time in the classroom learning about historical aspects of international health and human services, economic development and health and social science, nutrition in a developing country, globalization, health care issues, and HIV/AIDS, as well as cultural difference and cultural sensitivity. Then the group splits up and heads to different countries over the break, accompanied by a university faculty or staff member.
While “in country,” the group spends at least half of the time studying some aspect of healthcare and social services in that country. They hear lectures from local experts, tour hospitals and clinics, and visit pharmacies and manufacturing facilities. They also participate in service projects whenever possible. The remainder of the day is spent in more informal experiencing of the country through visiting tourist attractions, eating in local restaurants and being out and about in the community. In some countries they stay with host families, and in others at a local hotel.
This spring, groups visited Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Switzerland, China, Germany, England, and Spain. Most of the group leaders (CHHS faculty and staff) maintained a daily blog and here are some of the highlights from their trips.
“Our hearts were moved today from a visit to Casa San Eugenio where we spent our day. First we started with cleaning the classroom for special needs children, sweeping all the dirt, and pulling weeds and removing trash to make their playground safe. We learned about how the Casa assists people with special needs and then we were able to help some students com- plete a craft project. After lunch, we went to the “tracks”, a place where undocumented people have created a community. The community does not have any running water or consistent and safe electricity. The Mexican government does not recognize this community. Here, we were given a tour by the priest of the clinic who also oversees “the tracks” and the women volunteers. They explained how they help feed the children of the community whose parents are addicted to drugs or unable to provide meals for them. The students were moved and decided to donate money to the clinic.”
“A visit to Hogar Chiquitos touched all of us deeply. The home was created by the city as a temporary residence for approximately 30 children whose parents were unable to care for them for various reasons. SDSU students were greeted by innocent laughter and warm hugs from the chiq- uitos (little children). The chiquitos didn’t mind the language barrier, they were excited to play futbol, braid each other’s hair, and sing songs to the strums of an acoustic guitar played by several talented SDSU students. In one of the most self- less acts I have had the privilege of witnessing, the SDSU students collected $3,000 pesos (over $200 US Dollars) of their own spending money and generously donated it to Hogar Chiquitos.”
“Although the students embraced learning about the various health and human service pro- grams offered in Argentina, it was apparent they loved learning more about the Argentine culture! Several students participated in a community game of futbol y tenis (which is an interesting hybrid of soccer, tennis and volleyball), learned how to dance the tango, became gauchos on a beautiful estancia for a day, and consumed countless empanadas.”
“That afternoon, we drove to an “ebais”, or neighbor- hood clinic, and met up with Dr. Molina. Dr. Molina explained the ebais system. There are roughly 10 of these neighborhood clinics for 45,000 people. If someone feels sick, they will visit the ebais first to see a doctor. If their ailment is too severe for the ebais to handle, the patient will then be referred to a clinic. If the clinic is unable to treat the patient, they are then sent to the hospital. Dr. Molina gave us a tour of both the ebais and clinic in addition to a small scavenger hunt that required our students to interact (in Spanish) with some of the locals that were in the area.
Dr. Molina spoke more with us, this time focusing on tropical diseases. We talked a lot about how they are spread, going into great depth particularly with mosquitos (how they live, how they travel, how the diseases are spread, etc). He also showed us some fascinating pictures of various rashes/bites as well. I think from now on, students will be covering themselves head to toe with insect repellent even when they return to the states!”
“We started the day at Dick & Dünn (roughly translated “Fat and Thin”) – a counseling center for eating disorders. This center is mostly staffed by social workers and counselors who help connect people suffering from eating disorders, and their families, to resources such as therapists and professional nutritionists.“
“We visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Tobias, our tour guide, gave us an in-depth tour of many of the remaining buildings at the camp. This was a place which, during WWII, forced political prisoners and marginalized citizens – including people with disabilities, homosexuals, foreigners, and Jewish people – into hard labor.
Among the cruelties that happened at this site were medical experiments, including experiments and research on the most efficient way to extinguish large groups of people (via gas chambers, for example). We took some time to debrief as a group this evening, but the general consensus was that everyone needed more time to digest and reflect upon today’s content.”
“At La Source we had a lecture by Blaize Guinchard (Professor at La Source), on the “Swiss Politics and the Swiss Health System.” This lecture provided the students with a solid understanding of how politics work in Switzerland. Switzerland developed its Constitution around 1858 and it was crafted after the 2-party Constitution of the U.S. Most importantly, the Swiss people have a very important role in determining (voting) those issues that will/will not become law. Professor Guichard also went to great lengths to describe/compare the Swiss healthcare system as it relates to the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. Throughout this lecture, Blaize Guinchard acknowledged his poor English-speaking grammar. However, the students seemed to be fully engaged in his talk and frequently offering words that didn’t readily come to mind for Blaize. I was impressed by the didactic conversation that occurred between Blaize and the students over the entire lecture time.”
“After arriving in Montreux-Vileneuve, we took a very short bus ride to our destination — Chateau de Chillon … an enormous castle that was begun to be built in the 12th Century.”
We had a wonderful day today in Madrid! We started by traveling to a small neighbor- hood on the outskirts of the city: Fuenlabrada. We visited a private daycare center to learn about a medical service they are using that is really innovative. Basically, a web-cam is set up with a local doctor and the staff at the daycare are able to use devices that directly send information and stats to the doctor, including a stethoscope, pulse monitor, and a high magnifying camera for checking wounds, eyes, nose or throat. The staff were really wonderful and it was fun to see the little kids react to the group of us being in their daycare.”
“We walked to El Museo Nacional del Prado, more commonly referred to as simply “El Prado,” and met with our tour guide, Ana. She is a local professor of Art History and had a wealth of knowledge to share with us about the various works of art dating as early as the 12th century. We had the amazing privilege of getting up close to paintings from the masters: El Greco, Velazques and Goya, to name just a few.”
“Here we stopped at the charity St. Mary’s Rehabilitation and Training (SMART) mental health center. This place was sincerely amazing! They provide life skills training for individuals with increased mental health needs. The service partners receive life training skills and hands on experience with: cooking, garden- ing, floristry, music, soap making, job interviews, resume build- ing and work place training. It is a truly holistic approach! The products made by the service partners are sold in a local florist shop as well as their own cafe! Where we ate an amazing meal prepared by the group at SMART! One student even indicated
it was the best meal she has had so far!”
“Today we had another lovely, fun, and educational day! We started our journey at the Old Operating Theatre Museum, where we had a delightfully morbid lecture on surgery of past.”
Professor Karen Emmorey, who led the England trip, said she could see a visible shift in her students’ outlook as the program went along. At the beginning of the program, Emory said she could usually pick out the public health students based on their level of interest and engagement. But by the end, the lines started to blur. “It definitely changed the way I looked at my career,” student Tyson Arden said. “I never thought about getting experience anywhere other than the United States as far as being a physical therapist. Now I’m looking into programs to travel abroad and be in a setting where I’m not only learning a new language, but working with disadvantaged people”.
The focus on international experience is spreading throughout the university. President Hirshman noted, “The international initiatives in Building on Excellence (SDSU’s strategic plan) have three facets. First, reflecting our belief that we must prepare students for professional and civic responsibilities in a global future, we have set an ambitious goal that 30 percent of our graduating students have international experiences – 2,100 students studied abroad last year. Our students grow intellectually and personally from these experiences. Second, we are focusing our research on international challenges. A broad range of areas, including climate change, economic prosperity, national security and public health, must be addressed from a global perspective. Our researchers work with colleagues around the world to solve society’s pressing problems. Third, we are recruiting additional international students, who bring perspectives and knowledge that broaden the education of all our students and help build the bridges of friendship that tie nations together.”
As more and more of SDSU’s students experience these international learning opportunities, CHHS will continue to lead the way into the wider world.
International experiences are an important part of the CHHS educational experience. Learning about different health care traditions and cultural differences are essential to providing top-quality healthcare in our increasingly diverse and global community. Developing empathy for those who are different from yourself and knowing that “our way” is not the only way are equally important. Your help is needed to make these experiences possible. Please consider a gift of any size to support this vision. Contact Rebecca Williamson, the CHHS development officer at 619-594-2868 or rwilliamson@ sdsu.edu, or use the form on the back page of The Pulse, or visit the online giving option on the www.sdsu.edu website.