Short-term Study Abroad Courses in International Health: Lessons from the Field

By GinaMarie Piane and Savitri Singh-Carlson.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Actual international experiences change student’s lives by awakening their social consciousness and are valuable teaching tools in the field of International Health. The lessons learned by visiting a public hospital in Kenya or meeting with the “Condom King” in person in Thailand, cannot be replaced by lectures, books or videos on-campus. Bearing witness to the poverty of the 1 million homeless in Mumbai, those living in the slums of Nairobi or the Favelas in Rio de Janeiro cannot be compared to classroom lectures.
Long-term programs such as “Semester at Sea” or traditional semester-long study abroad programs often exclude students with family and work responsibilities at home since they cannot leave home for a full semester. Short-term study abroad courses bridge this gap, allowing for limited time away from those responsibilities. If scheduled during semester breaks, they also accommodate students in programs with lock-step schedules or with residency requirements.
Students’ experiences and exposure to other similar and different cultures helps them appreciate that each person enters the relationship with their own set of values and perspectives which are important for sustainability and self-preservation when the young undergrad student enters the world work force. Students learn to understand different views of health while they improve multicultural communication skills. Many students who have participated in short-term study abroad programs in international health have returned to the United States with a new found desire to pursue international careers. Some have joined the Peace Corps; some have continued their studies in International Health; some have returned to international settings for internships. Physical therapy students who participated in clinical education in Jamaica mentioned that the benefits of experiencing a developing country had a long lasting impact for them as professionals, individuals and as global citizens. This paper will highlight the importance of an international health curriculum.

Keywords: International Health for Students, Cultural Differences and Similarities, Sustainability, The Value of Students’ Experiences

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.83-92. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 584.954KB).

Dr. GinaMarie Piane

Professor, Department of Health Sciences, California State University, Long Beach, California, USA

Gina Piane is a professor in Health Sciences. She takes students for international public health experiences every year during the summer and winter breaks.

Dr. Savitri Singh-Carlson

Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Health Sciences, California State University, Long Beach, California, USA

I am the coordinator for the dual MSN/MPH degree program in Nursing at California State University. I teach both theory and clinical components to graduate nursing public health students. As a new faculty member I am excited about teaching public health which is my passion. My excitement lends me to my interest in exposing students to multiple diverse clinical experiences in order for them to develop an understanding of the differences and similarities that a patient brings to the health care relationship. My research is with vulnerable cancer patients who are journeying through the cancer experience post treatment. Breast cancer survivors need a care plan to navigate their journey post-treatment. My interest is to make this care plan is not available to all patients in the language of choice. I am hoping to network with colleagues who have similar interests at this conference in order to further my global health interests.


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