Dr. Bonnie Bade, chair of our Anthropology department (http://www.csusm.edu/anthropology/index.html), leads a team of students to Ecuador each year to live in the Andes with indigenous Quichua community host families and study traditional educational, health and agriculture practices. Students are taught to question clinical assumptions about the health and wellness of individuals and communities and to learn about more broadly defined illness classifications, explanations and treatments that incorporate holistic thinking, and the roles of community in health. "Students go into a bit of culture shock when they arrive," she says. "Andean culture is not obsessed with time and accumulation as we are. Instead, a premium is place on the wisdom of the ages carried forward by elders and wise persons for whom buen vivir, or the ‘good life,’ is defined by balance of work, rest, and physical and spiritual health for individuals, communities and ecosystems. The Andean concept of ecological well-being is central to community well-being. Just being there takes much of what our students have learned in the U.S. and throws it on its side. Homogenizing forces such as social media and movies are less prevalent; they rely on traditional knowledge and practices. Interactions between people are based on the values of reciprocity and sharing which causes our students to re-evaluate the way they look at just about everything in their lives."
"It was good for me," says student Sam Grosso who is a vet attending CSUSM and has been to Ecuador twice with the program. "Each time I go to Ecuador, it takes me awhile to process what I've seen and learned. It's like another deployment in that way. The difference is that in Ecuador my host family has become my family. Andean culture is very welcoming and sincere. The families, culture, and rituals have helped me heal and the connections I've made have empowered me."
Nursing instructor Michelle Alfe's experiences in Tanzania have given her the same kind of mind-bending perspective. "I just returned from a year in Dodoma, Tanzania teaching Medical Surgical nursing students. The experience gave me insight into myself and how I can become a better teacher. My tolerance level changed enormously. I learned the importance of listening, truly respecting each student as an individual and looking for ways to actively mentor and make a difference in the lives of each and every student I interact with," she says.
The School of Nursing, (http://www.csusm.edu/nursing/aboutus/index.html) under the direction of Dr. Denise Boren and Dr. Pat Hinchberger, has a history of encouraging students and faculty to work and study worldwide and this practice has impacted the development of courses such as Health Promotion and Patient Teaching Strategies. “In countries like Swaziland our students learn to make do with extremely limited resources and it gives them a broader perspective about healthcare and the many cultural sensitivities that come into play. Many of our students return with a new-found passion for serving underserved populations, " says Dr. Boren.
By moving outside of our comfort zones, and having global experiences, students and faculty at CSUSM are impacting and informing curriculum development and learning (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLWK-hiMuAs). Do you have ideas for work/study programs abroad that would benefit our students and faculty? Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.