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ASU nursing students explore health care in Peru this summer

Amanda Goodman

For the first time since 2019, Arizona State University nursing students touched down in Peru this June to learn about health care, culture and ethics.

The three-week trip is part of the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s summer study abroad program. (It was sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

“As much as we’ve all struggled to connect with one another during the pandemic, it was a really special opportunity to bring students somewhere new and unfamiliar to get a different perspective on the world and themselves,” said Joe Russo, Edson College Learning Enterprise director. “It was fantastic to return to that style of hands-on learning and cultural exchange that makes study abroad so special.” 

He was one of the two Edson College faculty directors who made the nearly 4,000-mile trip with the 11 students taking part. They started the trip in Cusco and then made their way to Aguas Calientes.

In addition to service-learning projects, the students also get to do some sightseeing with trips to Machu Picchu and other historical attractions.

“It was most definitely a whirlwind of emotions, filled with amazing memories and experiences,” Aida Zaki said.

Zaki, an Edson College sophomore, along with Shaniece Randolph, a senior, documented the trip through regular blog posts shared on the college’s website.  

Reflecting on her time in Peru, Randolph shared she wanted to study abroad to challenge herself and try something new. She said the program and opportunities were unforgettable in many ways but especially as it relates to health care.

“As a nursing student, I saw many differences in the clinics in Peru versus the U.S. and how they worked with their patients, taking a more holistic approach. I was also able to practice my Spanish in the clinical setting with patients and the obstetrician,” Randolph said.

A key component of the program’s success and access are the in-country partnerships the college has with Kaya and ProPeru

Russo said it was wonderful to connect and work with them again.

“It’s through those relationships that our students are invited to join this work in a responsible way and learn from those deeper, more embedded experiences.”

Some of the service-learning projects included building stoves and chimneys for community members’ homes out of locally available materials, including bricks and mud. The goal of this project is to alleviate heavy smoke inside the home and the family’s exposure to it, which has direct health benefits.

Students also visited a community school to meet with teachers and kids and work on art projects. 

“The kids were adorable and excited when they met us. Their energy gave me the motivation to create and design pictures for their school’s wall,” Zaki said.

One of Edson’s biggest proponents of study abroad opportunities is Aliria Muñoz Rascón, a clinical associate professor and director of the Global Health Collaboratory. In her role, she works to expand the global footprint of the college.

She explains that while students will have a number of memorable moments in their journeys toward becoming health professionals, nothing quite matches the intensity of transformation they experience after studying abroad.

“It builds empathy, curiosity, focus, confidence, compassion, and can ignite a fire to take action as a citizen and as a health professional. Our students learn that while each human is preciously unique as they are nested within distinct cultures and environments, we all share our humanity and deserve love, joy and respect,” she said.

While thinking back on her time in Peru, Zaki expressed her gratitude for the opportunity and shared how her time abroad impacted her.

“I learned so much about Peruvian culture, made amazing friends and met incredible people. Words cannot express how honored I am to have spent time learning and growing through this experience.”