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Study Abroad: A Global Health Experience

Public Health Study Abroad students visit the breathtaking Inca city of Machu Picchu built atop the Andes mountains in Peru. July 9, 2017

Public Health Study Abroad students visit the breathtaking Inca city of Machu Picchu built atop the Andes mountains in Peru. July 9, 2017

The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health offered three study abroad programs across three continents during the Summer of 2017.

The study abroad program provides students with an opportunity to go outside the classroom and determine how public health theory is used in practice. Each program provides a completely different type of academic experiences and varied length and credits allowing students to choose to participate in a program that meets their needs.

The summer program in Northern Europe focused on human sexuality and physical fitness. The 6-unit program started with a week of coursework in Tucson followed by more than three weeks travelling in Northern Europe. The first stop was Belgium, staying in the cities of Ghent and Antwerp. The second week, students were in The Netherlands, contrasting stays in the modern city of Eindhoven and historic Amsterdam. The program concluded in Copenhagen, Denmark.

This highly experiential program focused on how issues related to sexual health (including sex education, assisted reproduction technology, sex work, and childbirth) are addressed in three countries, and the diverse ways that governments, hospitals, and public health organizations provide services. Students sharpened their interview skills by surveying citizens regarding prostitution. Participants visited the Dutch Olympic Training Center and compared attitudes, practices, laws, and policies that influence fitness, exercise, and sport. Students participated in myriad physical fitness activities including yoga, commuter bicycling in the Netherlands, circuit training, and a dynamic movement workshop in Denmark.

Throughout the program, students also participated in excursions to castles, cathedrals, and museums. In each country, students had the opportunity to learn about local customs and traditions during meals with local hosts.

Elisa Loya views the program as a personal growth experience.

“I thought I was already an outgoing and open-minded person and this trip showed me that there was still room for more! It has also taught me that a change in perspective can make a world of difference,” said Loya.

Jullisa Sanches believes the trip made her even more interested in public health as a major.
“I understand that there are many different ways to address public health issues, based on the variety of methods I learned about that are occurring in different countries.”

The Accelerated Undergraduate Public Health Program in Cusco, Peru allowed 16 students to complete a full semester of coursework during a 9-week (12 credits), summer program in Cusco, Peru. Their days included a combination of classroom time, and service learning field work. Although Spanish was not required, two semesters of Spanish language was encouraged to participate.

The classroom courses included Global Health, Infections and Epidemics and a course on Health Disparities and Minority Health. The service learning course included having students construct safe clay-based wood stoves to decrease indoor smoke exposure, prevent burns and provide a lower cost alternative to propane stoves.

Students also helped install point-of-use water filtration systems in homes and developed a protocol to do home inspections for decreasing the risks for injuries and infectious disease in Quechua villages.

“While building the stoves and tables for the water filters for families in rural communities, we got the chance to experience first-hand examples of real world health disparities that we had talked about in class,” said Rachel Staudacher.

Students also had the opportunity to enrich their studies by learning about the Peruvian culture through cooking classes, salsa lessons, and studies on the Inca Empire with visits to beautiful archeological ruins, including Machu Picchu.

For the second year in a row, the UA College of Public Health offered the study abroad program in China. All the students were supported by a three-month scholarship to earn 12 UA credits from the Integrated Chinese Primary Healthcare Program.This Chinese government scholarship covered all the study expense, housing and a monthly stipend while students studied in China.

The program included a 6-hour in-class instruction per week on the beautiful campus at the Henan University of Chinese Medicine, Zhengzhou, Henan Province. Students learned about Health Qigong, Tai Chi, Chinese Medicine for Wellness, Chinese Medicine Principles, Acupuncture, Tuina (Chinese medical massage) and History of Chinese Medicine.

The students were taught by professors and instructors at Henan University of Chinese Medicine. Students also participated in clinical practicums for acupuncture and tuina twice a week at the affiliated hospitals of Henan University of Chinese Medicine. They also got to shadow doctors at the integrative surgery units where they watched as Western and Chinese medicine were beautifully integrated in the clinical care.

Before leaving for China, students received 4-weeks pre-session training on Chinese language and culture offered by the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona. During the 3-months study abroad, students further expended their knowledge and understanding of Chinese culture by sampling the local cuisine, tea, and trips. During weekends and holidays, students toured Shaolin Temple for Chinese martial arts, visited Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors, the Chinese Medicine Museum at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, climbed the world famous Great Wall, visited the Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Beijing Olympic park, and Shanghai, the most modernized city in China.

“This experience half-way around the world has completely changed my perspective on my life, the lives of other people, and most importantly connected me to people all over the world. It has completely increased my level of compassion and love for humanity,” said Jacob Matthews.

The study abroad programs at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health are a coordinated effort between faculty, the Office of Student Services and Alumni Affairs, and the UA Office of Global Initiatives.

The University of Arizona