Gaining experience through giving back
Ready to leave her comfort zone behind, Melbourne-based nursing student Olivia Cantarella headed to New York to complete a Core Curriculum unit as part of her degree. In among the fun and sightseeing, she was surprised by not only what she gained from her international experience, but how it allowed her to give back.
“I’ve always wanted to complete a portion of my degree overseas, but because I’m studying a Bachelor of Nursing I thought this might be tricky to organise,” Olivia said.
“However, I discovered that I could study a Core Curriculum unit in a different country and the program would fit perfectly between my Semester 1 final exams and the start of Semester 2.”
New York, New York
Choosing whether to study in Rome, Leeds, Beijing or New York was an easy decision for Olivia.
“In spite of these options, the appeal of New York was hard to deny. I’d already travelled there in 2008 and I was excited to see how the city had changed,” she said. “I was also intrigued to experience American campus life."
For Olivia and the other students in her class, this meant living and learning at St John’s University, located in the Queens borough of New York.
In between classes, there was plenty of downtime to discover the city.
“I really enjoyed riding the subway (with the knowledgeable St John’s ambassadors as our navigators) and exploring Manhattan and Brooklyn, which was great for people watching,” Olivia said.
“And getting caught on the Empire State Building’s open-air platform on the 86th floor during a freak thunderstorm was something I won't forget anytime soon.”
The real work
As much as she enjoyed her time having fun in the city that never sleeps, taking part in community work was what resonated with Olivia the most during her travels.
“While we were there, we participated in three community engagement projects.
“Our first project was tending to the St John's community garden, which saw us get our hands dirty in the beautiful afternoon sun. We learnt that all of the garden’s vegetables were to be used in a local soup kitchen and a food pantry run by St John’s. It was so much more satisfying to know we were doing something that would positively impact the local community."
“We then spent time engaging with residents from a local nursing home, learning about their diverse backgrounds while sharing afternoon tea and a laugh or two. And finally, we had the chance to support a local soup kitchen, facilitating their busy dinner service. It helped me gain a true appreciation for how valuable a service like this is to a person's overall wellbeing.”
A new perspective
For Olivia, studying the Core Curriculum in a unique location not only enhanced her studies, but it helped her see the world a little differently.
“Each day we had valuable, thought-provoking discussions that led us to some interesting and challenging places,” she said. “I think the Core invokes a different way of thinking about yourself and everything around you.
"It enabled me to really think about my position in society both personally and professionally, and it gives you the foundation to operate in a compassionate, ethical and considerate way in your future.”
Discover more about the International Core Curriculum.