Do not believe the myth “nursing students cannot study abroad.” Nursing students can (and should) study abroad, even if it is just for a summer.
My name is Brenna Flynn, and I am currently a junior nursing major here at Waynesburg University. I never had the desire to take my education abroad until I decided that it was time that I grow, and in order to grow I believe that you need to get uncomfortable.
So, I took that leap of faith of getting out of my comfort zone to grow and gain the confidence that I need in order to work in the medical field. I found myself studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary for 5 weeks this summer. During this time, I realized how truly important it was for me to be there in a new culture surrounded by new faces and new surroundings in order for me to grow, as well as gain different perspectives that will help me as a future nurse.
A few things I learned…
- Global perspective. Understanding other cultures is essential for human interactions as a nurse. In order to treat my future patients to the best of my ability, it helps to be familiar with their culture because people from different places express feelings and pain in different ways. Being in a new place gave me the ability to adapt to diverse situations while being able to problem solve, all while gaining a better understanding and appreciation for the new environments’ citizens and their history. Being exposed to these different ways of living and cultures will help my interactions with my future patients.
- Adaptability. I learned to open myself up to other ways of thinking and living. I was forced to immerse myself into the Hungarian lifestyle from the beginning. I was placed in an apartment with other international students, and we were in charge of all of our own food, supplies, and transportation. We learned very quickly how public transportation worked as well as that we should only buy what we can carry from the market. Just like nursing, I will not know what to expect do to the ever-changing environment; I will need to learn to adapt to new situations on a daily basis. Abroad, I was able to experience this.
- Communication skills. I was able to hear and understand the stories of others by learning to communicate more effectively with those in Hungary. I talked and engaged in conversation with others in public which is what I will be doing as a nurse daily. In doing so, I was able to get out of my comfort zone and become educated on different beliefs, meet new people, and experience a whole new culture’s way of life. I was able to gain a stronger understanding of our world while also gaining stronger communication skills. My communication skills must be flexible because of the wide array of cultures, beliefs, religions, and generations I will encounter as a nurse and studying abroad helped me prepare for that.
- Confidence. I was forced to get out of my comfort zone daily. I went to Budapest alone not knowing anyone or the city itself; therefore, I had to talk to strangers and figure out where I was going. I was able to gain confidence by doing something as little as talking to a shop keeper or navigating through the metro system. After being presented with so many challenges in a foreign country, I have gained the confidence in my ability to handle these challenges as well as any new challenges that may present themselves in the future. I now have a much deeper respect for all cultures, and I cannot wait to go in with this confidence as a nurse when interacting with people from all over the world.
- Get uncomfortable. As mentioned earlier, I believe that in order to grow one must get uncomfortable. Being placed in a new environment allowed me to understand how it feels to be foreign. I will now be able to look back on these experiences and use it to reflect on how any international patients I work with may feel in the future.
While I was in Hungary, I took advantage of how cheap it was to travel to different countries while within Europe. My friends and I were able to find inexpensive ways to travel while staying in hostels. We traveled to Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Greece. They were all different and so beautiful. It was such an incredible opportunity to be able to travel and see so many different places within the 5 weeks.
By living in a foreign country and being self-reliant, I gained a lot more knowledge. I now believe that I can overcome any obstacle that may be thrown my way and I can face challenges with optimism and strength. I have gained such a different perspective of the world and what really matters in life after this experience. Studying abroad has reassured my choice in becoming a nurse because it opened by eyes to how many opportunities are out there.