Tag Archives: experience

The ways I’ve changed

When I left for my study abroad trip in January, I did not think that I was a journalist. I was afraid that my skills would not stack up against the other students that I was headed there with. I had never been off of my own continent and I was just afraid of being away from the safety and security of my own bubble.

When I left for my study abroad trip, I did not think that I would grow to care so much about the group of people that I was with. Strangers at the start of the year and, now, people that I hope to keep in touch with even after the semester has ended. We learned something from each other, and that is what has changed me.

Skyler, a journalism student, that faced her fears and left her comfort of home just as I did. She is brave and can survive any bug bite that she is faced with (at least with an EpiPen in tow). She showed me that I wasn’t alone in my fear and discomfort and that I would be okay, just like she was.

Alana, a fellow Public Relations major, showed me what it means to truly care about and have a passion for the field that you are going into. She is passionate about museums, latinx history, art and photography. From her, I learned to find something that I love and never stop chasing that.

Katie, the sassiest and most outspoken of the group, is so involved in reporting news and writing the best stories that she can. She taught me what it really means to be a journalist and helped me gain skills that I didn’t know I had–like interviewing, gathering sources and being confident in what you are writing about.

Ashley, the inspiring and resilient nineteen year old, really showed me that even if you have been in the trenches at points in your life, you can rise above and come out on top. We shared our stories of childhood and found many points that we could relate on. She is a strong woman who has set her mind to whatever she wants, and I know that she can achieve her dreams. I wish that I had been more like her when I started off as a student–determined, passionate and hard-working.

Last, but certainly not least, Holly Lynn Wise. The most inspiring woman that I have met in my college career. Holly pushed me and convinced me to go on the study abroad trip two days before the application was due. I learned how to use my writing skills, thanks to her, and for that I am very grateful. Journalism aside, I am now passionate about finding my place in the world and using my skills to add to it. Holly showed me what it means to be career-driven and to take your life and run with it. She is caring, kind, compassionate, and I am excited to watch how the next chapter of her life unfolds. I hope she knows how much she means to me and that I would not trade the experiences that I had because of her for anything.

I will not view my life in the same way I did before I left on my study abroad trip. I have determination and the drive to use my skills and have an effect on the world around me.

Featured photo by Alana Zamora/Global News Team

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Texas State nursing students experience Nicaraguan hospitality

By Alicia Vazquez

When the St. David’s School of Nursing students from Texas State University signed up for two weeks of volunteer service at a third world country, they knew it wouldn’t be the same as providing healthcare in the United States.

What was not completely expected was that the experience would require them to use skills from their first days of nursing school and provide an opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture through the Nicaraguan people.

Stepping out of the comfort zone

Elizabeth Biggan, clinical assistant professor at St. David’s School of Nursing, said she prepares the students by talking to them about the poverty that they’ll see. She also shows them videos from previous trips, but she can’t fully prepare them for the clinics.

“Every bit of school that they go through at home is in a hospital where all equipment is readily available. All medications are readily available,” Biggan said. “It’s hard on the students to have a patient who needs medication, but they don’t have it and they have no way to get it. They really have to learn to adapt to the situation, but they also learn to get creative with their solutions.”

Nursing student Anastasia Houze listens to a baby's heart during the Campuzano community clinic. Photo by Alicia Vazquez
Nursing student Anastasia Houze listens to a baby’s heart during the Campuzano community clinic. Photo by Alicia Vazquez

Experiencing those situations is what makes students’ nursing skills grow. In the Nicaragua clinics, they can’t rely on machines for reassurance.

Students manually check vital signs like blood pressure and temperature, something most haven’t done for four semesters. Biggan said this is where students step out of their comfort zones and learn to trust themselves.

The language barrier

The nursing students ranged from feeling confident with Spanish, to remembering some words from Spanish class in high school, to not knowing any Spanish at all. Some prepared for the clinics by studying the anatomical terms in Spanish. Others had to learn on the spot or rely on the translators, but the difficulty was part of the volunteering experience.

A young patient and nursing student Bridgette Young exchange smiles before beginning the health assessment.
A young patient and nursing student Bridgette Young exchange smiles before beginning the health assessment. Photo by Alicia Vazquez

“The first house visit was mostly people looking at me and at one point even laughing, like ‘what is this girl saying?,’” said nursing student Bridgette Young. “By the end they were really understanding me and actually answering back without the translator.”

Massiel Acetuno, assistant team leader, said it’s difficult for the students to have social conversations when they’re not able to fully express themselves in the foreign language.

The students used their broken Spanish, hand gestures, facial expressions and voice pitch as they tried to make connections with the people.

“Volunteers try to do signs or play with the kids to bond with them,” Acetuno said. “Sometimes I feel helpless when I see them struggling with language but I like to see that even though they’re not speaking the same language, it’s like their souls connect.”

When people of different cultures meet

Acetuno, who is constantly introducing new people to her culture, said she enjoys it because it’s her chance to tell people why she’s so proud of being Nicaraguan. Acetuno describes Nicaraguans as people who welcome visitors and who receive them as family members.

“I love the most when we go to house visits and clinic days and they’re able to see by themselves that I wasn’t lying, that everything I said was true,” Acetuno said. “People still welcome you even though their houses are really poor, they always say to you ‘come in’ without any fear, without any doubt.”

The house visits to the communities are the first opportunity that the nursing students get to interact with Nicaraguans.

“They’re going to give you all the chairs for you to sit down. These people are so nice, so selfless,” nursing student Jessica Ramirez said. “They don’t have a lot to offer but they still keep offering.”

A baby boy stands in his crib at the Campuzano community. Photo by Alicia Vazquez
A baby boy stands in his crib at the Campuzano community. Photo by Alicia Vazquez

International Service Learning, the organization that plans the volunteering trips, identifies rural areas where healthcare is not easily available. This means that the conditions will be some that the students may not have seen before.

There were latrines, houses with dirt floors and without doors, wood cribs and unpaved roads. Despite the conditions, Nicaraguans displayed something else to their visitors.

“Happiness. They only show how grateful they are for the things that they have,” Acetuno said. “You may not see in their faces pain or sadness. You may not see depression, but most of the people that we see in the communities have huge problems. Sometimes they don’t have anything to eat that day.”

On the final day at the communities, the students handed out rice and beans, played games with the children and broke a piñata. It was a day to forget about nursing work and interact with the community they had been helping.

“I think the most difficult thing was giving the families rice and beans,” Ramirez said. “When we handed the parents food, that was real. We were giving them a means to survive for a week.”

Acetuno said that at the end of the trip it’s not just about helping people but also about taking the time to understand their situation, understand their history and why they are the way they are.

For nursing student Rachel Nading, leaving Nicaragua was the most difficult thing.

“I feel like it’s not enough. I feel like I could do more,” Nading said. “More in medical care, in treating people, just more.”

A girl waves goodbye at the nursing students after they finish conducting the health census at her home. Photo by Alicia Vazquez
A girl waves goodbye at the nursing students after they finish conducting the health census at her home. Photo by Alicia Vazquez