Office Of Public Affairs

Nursing Students Travel to Mexico as Part of Interdisciplinary Experience

Feb 2, 2009 2:00 PM

When Steffanie Peterson learned the University of Utah was offering a week-long interdisciplinary international course during the Summer 2008 Semester, she jumped at the chance to participate.  As a graduate student with the College of Nursing and mother of three, the week-long nature of the program offered her a feasible way to take part in an international study experience.

“Traditional study abroad programs are at least a month, and for me that wasn’t an option,” said Peterson.  “The University did a wonderful job of designing this course so that in one week’s time I was still exposed to so much.”

Students from the College of Nursing, College of Education and School of Public Health as well as community professionals took part in the eight day “Understanding Education, Health and Social Services of Mexico” immersion course in Guadalajara, Mexico.  The interdisciplinary course was designed in response to the growing need for graduate students, advanced practice nurses, educators and social workers to understand Mexican culture and systems.

“The goal of the course was to further enable professionals to work with the Mexican population in the United States and abroad, said Jane Dyer, director of the nurse midwifery and women’s health nurse practitioner program at the College of Nursing, who worked with the University of Utah’s International Center to make the concept a reality.  In partnership with the Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest University, lectures and presentations by University faculty, local public officials and traditional health care providers were arranged.  These focused on everything from Mexican culture to immigration, education, health care and social services.

During the summer course participants completed pertinent readings, engaged in on-line discussions, and then traveled to Guadalajara, where they stayed with families who did not speak English.  While each day began with a Spanish lesson, familiarity with the language was intentionally not a pre-requisite for this course; for Peterson, the language barrier offered a substantial growth opportunity. 

“I didn’t speak any Spanish upon my arrival in Guadalajara,” she said, “so even trying to figure out how to call my family back home was difficult. The experience really made me think about the challenges faced by individuals when they cannot communicate with their health care providers.” Peterson now plans to further develop her Spanish language skills in order to better meet the needs of patients.

In addition to the daily lectures and presentations, visits to local health care agencies, including a hospital, after-school program, local social service foundation, and a traditional healing site gave participants a first-hand look at the resources available to those in need.

“The doctors and health care providers of these organizations were so willing to accommodate us in order to provide a rewarding educational experience,” said Sofya Sadiq, an accelerated undergraduate student with the College of Nursing, who took part in the trip because she loves traveling abroad—and hopes to someday work internationally. “We were right there in the action, seeing who the organizations help, observing their management…really watching their mission statements at work,” she said.

Sadiq adds that the experience was unique from other study abroad trips she has done in the past because community professionals were invited to participate along with the students. 

“Having the working professionals along really enriched the experience because of the perspective they were able to bring,” she said. “Without question, everyone on the trip was passionate about learning about Mexican culture and systems, but combining the interests of the graduate students with the working knowledge of the professionals really made for a much more diverse mix of people.”

For more information on international opportunities for students and faculty, visit the College of Nursing's Office of Outreach.

Visit our Spotlight Archive for a complete list of previous Spotlights.