Education Abroad: Healthcare in Paraguay
Thursday, July 26, 2018
By Brynn Carlson
This May, eights students and two faculty members traveled to Asunción, Paraguay for the study abroad trip looking at topics in international health in Paraguay. Lead by Dean John Buckwalter and Assistant Dean Shawna Jordan, the students who participated in the trip came with a variety of health-related focuses in the College of Human Ecology, including athletic training, physical therapy, and medical.
This was the first healthcare focused trip to Paraguay lead by Buckwalter and Jordan. Last year they took students to Croatia and plan to alternate locations between a European and South American destination each year.
Two student learning outcomes were established for the trip; first, to understand and appreciate healthcare in a developing country, and second, to understand how the educational process for health-related fields in Paraguay differs from the education system in the United States. Jordan noted that allowing students to experience the healthcare challenges and needs within different populations in Paraguay gave them the opportunity to “immerse themselves in an experience that many times took them out of their comfort zone, and perhaps will make them…challenge or think differently about the views they have.”
Prior to the trip, the students attended a six-week course during the spring semester where they learned about the history and culture of Paraguay as well as had the opportunity to get to know each other. One of the products of the class was a personalized intercultural development plan, which allowed each student to set goals for their time spent in Paraguay. Two of the students who participated in the trip, Maura Kennedy, senior in athletic training, and Andy Dieckmann, a junior in athletic training pursuing physical therapy, commented on their experiences during the trip, saying that they made memories that will last a lifetime and that experiencing a different way of life taught them to not take things here at home for granted.
During their time in Paraguay, the students participated in a mixture of educational experiences and cultural activities. The group visited a variety of different healthcare facilities, including public hospitals run by the government and private rehabilitation clinics that were specialized for specific populations, such as athletes or children with disabilities. In addition, they visited both public and private universities, traveled outside the city to smaller indigenous communities, spent time at the local markets, and even got to meet with the physiotherapist from the Dutch under-21 soccer team, who were visiting Paraguay for a friendly match. Through these experiences, the students increased their understanding of other cultures and gained a new perspective on health care, while simultaneously learning that there are many more similarities than differences between the Paraguayan and U.S. healthcare systems. Kennedy emphasized this point, saying “What we are going to practice [in their future health care settings] is needed all over the world, it’s not just a problem that we have here.”
Each student grew in self-awareness, understanding of others, and cultural appreciation during their nine days in Paraguay, the impact of which will reach far beyond the time they spend at Kansas State. According to Jordan “the impact comes back a little bit later, even after graduation, as they start to interact a little bit differently with the people they may work with as they get a job.” In addition, this trip has inspired many of the students to continue to look for opportunities to travel abroad, including Dieckmann, who said, “I definitely want to travel more and experience other countries…it would be cool to go to the European side and see how all of that functions and connects.” Having the chance to study abroad in Paraguay was and continues to be a life-changing experience for the eight students who traveled there this May. For those who may be interested in applying for a future study abroad trip, Jordan offers some advice, “If any student is considering [a study abroad trip] or is not 100% sure, a faculty lead trip is a great first step. It allows you to go with other K-State students…it allows you to really have the tie-in and application to what your degree is and what you're studying.”
To learn more about study abroad opportunities, please visit https://www.k-state.edu/abroad/.