For their final-year prac­ticum, Humber College practical nursing students Nicole Brisebois, Preety Randhawa, Fredricka Distin and Dion Wilson could have opted to work in one of Toronto’s well-equipped hospitals.

Instead, on April 1, the quartet packed their bags, hopped on a plane and travelled more than 12,000 kilometres to Arusha, Tanzania.

“Being (in Toronto), and doing your clinical here, you’re in a structured environment. You’ve got everything you need,” says Randhawa. “But in Tanzania it’s going to be a totally different method of learning.”

The group is spending two months living and working in Africa, gaining hands-on experience practising in a local clinic, and teaching the town’s residents health and hygiene.

Before Christmas, Randhawa was one of 25 practical nursing students who attended the trip’s initial info session. She wrote a two-page essay and was interviewed by faculty members before finding out in January that she had been accepted.

“I didn’t have anything tying me down and this is so out of my comfort zone,” she says, adding that she had never travelled abroad before. “It is an experience of a lifetime and how could you pass it up?”

Like Randhawa, Brisebois had a similar, euphoric reaction upon hearing news of her acceptance to the program.

“I actually cried,” she says. “I was really overwhelmed.”

Brisebois says she has always been drawn to African culture and language. “It’s been my lifelong dream to go to Africa,” she says. “Now that I’m in school doing nursing, it’s a place where I can actually apply the skills I’ve learned to where they need help.”

Humber nursing professors Sylvia Wojtalik and Janet Jeffery organized the Tanzania practicum. In less than three weeks, they will also be joining the students in Arusha.

“I am anxious to see the welcome that they will create for us,” says Wojtalik, who along with Jeffery understands the educational value of meeting their students on location. “We asked ourselves how would we create learning outcomes for curriculum if we haven’t been there?”

Most importantly, the professors recognize the trip will have a much greater effect on the students than any in-class opportunity.

“These students are immersed in a very new culture and that challenges them. It is self discovery,” says Jeffery. “It also allows students to get a glimpse of, and encounter the concept of, global citizenship. They will treat people with respect and dignity and provide the best care on a global level.”

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