Into Africa

photo of BSN students studying abroad in Malawi

Eight undergraduate students traded summer jobs and terrace sunsets for a foray into global health.

The students and two program leaders traveled more than 8,500 miles to Malawi for a three-week community health clinical immersion program led by Associate Professor Audrey Tluczek and instructor Annie Palmer. Students conducted health assessments and presented health promotion and education sessions for local health professionals and children.

Second-year student Emily Baltisberger sought out the experience as a way to travel and study abroad without interrupting her nursing education. She says the trip provided a deep and rich exposure to a different way of life and approach toward healthcare. “I’ll be treating different people from different cultures in my practice here in the United States,” she says. “The trip to Malawi gave me better understanding and perspective about that.”

Conducting the health assessments in homes was particularly eye-opening, as students saw first-hand the challenges of living in a rural part of Africa plagued with HIV/AIDS and ravaged by drought. “It was something I wasn’t expecting,” Baltisberger says, “and it definitely shows that there is more to a patient than what you see. There’s a lot more depth to them and a lot more to the bigger picture.”

While in Malawi, Baltisberger also witnessed a live birth, something which is not included in standard clinical rotations on campus. “That was probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” she says. “That really interested me, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity.”