Nursing Students Reflect on Study Abroad

Kent nursing students pose for a photo before dinner at Chez Afrique.
Kent nursing students pose for a photo before having dinner at Chez Afrique.

Kent State University College of Nursing is proud to offer its students various study abroad opportunities. These experiences allow students to learn from international experts in order to study health care from a global perspective. Below, students from the 2019 Greece/Ghana trip share how this experience has impacted their life and future career in nursing. If you would like to learn more about the study abroad opportunities for nursing students, click here.

 

Zoe Beetler headshot
Zoe Beetler

Overall I found this trip to be a wonderful eye-opening experience. I could not believe the number of migrants who come to Greece daily. In my opinion, it showed how minor our immigration problems in the United States really are. Walking through halls filled with migrants waiting to be serviced allowed me to personify the issue of immigration. These are people who deserve to be helped in some way.

I was amazed by the different hospitals and clinics we visited in Africa as well as our experience with the women’s initiative organization, Willows Foundation. When sharing experiences about my trip, these are what I talk about most. Beforehand, I could not imagine what the hospitals were like in Ghana. This trip has changed me. Although those hospitals were not as modern as ours, I was still able to see some modernization and rejoiced in their accomplishments, such as the polyclinic starting c-sections. Willows allowed us not only to walk around the community but to become one with the people in that community. Those interactions were so special. This trip made me more culturally aware. I know I will be able to apply the things I saw and learned in Greece and Ghana in my future practice.

 

Hannah Osburn in Greece
Hannah Osburn

The impact of my study abroad trip to Greece and Ghana has been a positive one. Not only did I learn about these two countries and their cultures, but I also learned about myself. My experiences have allowed me to become more self-aware, which will help me become a better nurse. More self-awareness will afford me the opportunity to be more understanding when caring for patients of other cultures. On this trip, I made some great friends and memories that will last a lifetime. I got to experience many things that most people will never get the opportunity to experience and I am very grateful for that. In the years to come, I plan to continue traveling and exposing myself to as many cultures as possible.

 

 

Jillian Schmidt in Greece
Jillian Schmidt

The Greece and Ghana trip was a great opportunity to see what health care looks like in other cultures. I was astounded by the number of refugees and migrants receiving aid in Greece every day. It put into perspective how fundamentally oppositional the United States government’s current approach to migration is in comparison to that of the rest of the world. In Ghana, I saw excellent patient-centered care with much emphasis on public health. I was especially amazed by Willows International’s model of care consisting of going to clients in their communities and following up with them multiple times in person. I have never seen a system like that in place in the United States. Overall, I realize how much the United States could learn from other cultures. This trip really helped me to realize how important it is to gain new perspectives by going out and actually experiencing the world, rather than just reading about it. This is a lesson I will carry with me as I pursue different opportunities working in women’s health, hopefully with community health and/or global health focus.

 

 

Kayla Runser in Ghana
Kayla Runser

This trip was a once in a lifetime adventure that I will never forget. I met wonderful people in both Greece and Ghana and created strong bonds with my peers, who are now close friends. After this trip, I feel like a new person. I am much more grateful for all that I have. I have now seen how poverty in a third world country affects everyone’s lifestyle. I learned new information about the African culture that I will be able to use when caring for future patients. I love sharing what I have learned with classmates and co-workers. It’s important for us to expand our knowledge of other cultures. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to go on this study abroad trip with the magnificent Kent State College of Nursing!

 

 

 

 

Anna Houser in Greece
Anna Houser

This trip was all about cultural humility, and I believe that goal was fully met. In Greece, we were able to experience their laid-back lifestyle. They take the time to enjoy every experience which is very different from America’s fast-paced lives. We gained a brief understanding of their culture and history by visiting the Acropolis and museum. Our time in Ghana was very eye-opening. The Ghanaian hospitals have much fewer means than we do in the United States, but they still find resourceful ways to achieve similar results. In those poverty-stricken communities, the Ghanaian people make the best of what little they have, which was amazing to witness. This entire trip has caused me to reflect on my own life and on the many blessings I have that I may previously have taken for granted.

 

 

 

Ryan Dowling in Greece
Ryan Dowling

This was my second time embarking on this trip with the program and I found it to be just as, if not more, rewarding this time around. Experiencing different cultures and people from around the world gives you such an eye-opening view of how we should treat each other. The people we met in Greece and Ghana were overall so welcoming and warm to us, and I feel that is something that doesn’t always get the main headline in countries where you may travel. We saw people, health and relationships were valued at such a high level. Looking back on life in the U.S. and it makes me feel somewhat ashamed of the life I have and how good it is. What I perceive as problems pale in comparison to what some of the people I met go through daily. This study abroad experience has changed the way I look at life for the better.

 

 

 

Ayla Mroczkowski touring the city
Ayla Mroczkowski

The overarching goal for this trip was cultural humility, and I believe that was achieved. Understanding and learning the way of life in Greece was very fascinating. They take their time to fully enjoy every moment of their life, and I believe everyone could benefit from doing the same. Observing and learning the Ghanaian culture and way of life truly humbled me. I think there are some preconceived notions about the way African people live, but until you experience it firsthand, it may be hard to understand. Even though many did not have much, they did the absolute best they could with what they had, and it was beautiful to see. This trip made me reflect on myself and my values. I now see I have much to be grateful for in my life.

 

 

 

Shannon McSteen headshot
Shannon McSteen

As Americans, we often find ourselves constantly on the move, focused on getting a laundry list of things done each day, which we repeat day after day. This trip showed me how important it is to take my time and really enjoy my surroundings and engage more with the people in my life. We are only given so much time in this life and I want to make the most of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sydney Ball in Greece
Sydney Ball

This trip gave me the opportunity to see the various ways people live, connect and interact together. I was able to challenge my own views as we discussed topics on social injustice, the varying healthcare systems, and cultural normalities. How I view others has changed forever. I feel honored that I will one day get the privilege to care for those who are different than me.

 

 

 

 

Wendy Vargo in Ghana
Wendy Vargo

Going on this trip, I really wanted to give my time and offer so much to the community, however, I was the one who left with a gift. After having the opportunity of a lifetime to witness healthcare in second and third-world countries, I have a feeling of gratitude. I can truly see how lucky we are and how good we have it in the U.S. Although the Ghanaians had little at their fingertips, they were the most giving people. I felt welcomed with the sense of love and respect that they have for one another. I want to bring this gift back to the U.S. and be kinder to people.

 

 

 

 

 

Leah Bifferstaff poses for a photo during her recent study abroad trip
Leah Bifferstaff

During my journey across the continents, I was able to grasp a better understanding of 2nd and 3rd world countries health organizations. In Greece, I had the opportunity to visit an immigration center that educated us on the process of becoming a Greek citizen, as well as their health qualifications. Visiting Accra, Ghana was a very humbling and amazing experience. The Willows Foundation is a family planning organization which helps educate Ghanaian communities about birth control methods, family planning, and many more sexual health issues. This trip has made such an impact not only on my life but has also helped to expand my knowledge of health care across the world.

 

 

 

 

Marissa Robejsek poses with children in Ghana
Marissa Robejsek

This trip was truly one of a lifetime. Since returning to my routines and re-acclimating into school and work, I have noticed an obvious change in my way of thinking and the considerations I make in the clinical setting and everyday life. By learning about the healthcare systems in both Greece and Ghana and comparing them to each other and the U.S., it is clear to see the strengths and faults that each country holds. In this same way, the struggles of the people in each country exposed me to a new way of thinking – a way that is much more appreciative of individuals who take the time to be kind and considerate of others. It is lessons like these that I have learned throughout this trip that will forever change my life, and I am so grateful to have had this experience.


This Kent State College of Nursing study abroad experience began in Athens, Greece, where students visited refugee sites and learned about the impact of oppression and social injustice issues on a global level. Students then traveled to Ghana, Africa, where they worked with the Willows International Foundation which advocates for women’s reproductive rights and provides healthcare services to those who are least able to utilize healthcare information and services. Students also visited various health care agencies to understand the impact of culture on health care. Both undergraduate and graduate students were able to apply for this study abroad experience.

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