Courtney Rae Pattugalan
It feels surreal that I'll be getting on a plane tomorrow to return home after spending the last two weeks in Oxford and the last couple of days in Paris. On the question of what I'll miss most when I return home, I'm overcome by a flurry of emotions, so forgive me for rambling but here are a few that come to mind: walking to class rehearsing our presentations or talking about what the group excursion of the day will be, the inside jokes that made my cheeks hurt from laughing, seeing the parts of Christ Church that were in my favorite Harry Potter films, staying up late in the dorms laughing and tired from long days of class, hearing about both the professional and personal journeys of our inspirational faculty and staff, taking nighttime walks down to the river to see where it would take us, tea time with all the biscuits I could ever want, touring the stroke unit at John Radcliffe Hospital and meeting the most astounding little boy who gave us a tour of his own at the pediatric play space in the Royal London Hospital, in spite of his illness. But what I'll miss the most is the little family that has made its home at Warnock House. The people I've met on this trip and gotten to know have broadened my mind and changed my perspective by looking through someone else's lens for a change, and that has made all the difference for me on this trip.
As I prepare to return home, I am looking forward to returning to my cohort back at school and telling my friends about my adventures. I hope to impart how impressed I was with the type of complete care that patients received in the hospitals I visited, and the attention paid to the individual as a whole. Secondly, I hope to tell my friends and family about all of the amazing excursions that we went on as a group; from touring Warwick Castle to Stratford-Upon-Avon, to the Old Operating Theater, and the Florence Nightingale Museum, it has been a privilege to see so many historical places in just a couple of weeks.
I feel that Dr. Piazza said it best when she shared her life story and nursing journey with us. It was that no matter where we are on our own journeys, we are always "still becoming." This was the biggest takeaway for me as I return home from the Oxford Honors program. As I reflect, this experience has been one of lifelong learning that occurred both inside and outside of the classroom, and through it I've witnessed a culmination of growth not only in myself, but in my classmates around me.
To conclude, this opportunity has truly been the experience of a lifetime and I will return to school encouraging cohorts behind me to apply and see what a life-changing impact this program has. As our little family moves forward toward a nursing career, we have the world at our feet and are now equipped to embrace all that nursing and global health has to offer. I had the honor of speaking at our gala before my peers, faculty, and Hertford College staff, and I must reiterate now what I said then — that we've never arrived, because we are always becoming.
As I look out of my balcony in Paris, I ask myself: “Where has the time gone?”
Oxford, the program that I had been looking forward to for what seemed like ages, has already passed and I am left with just the memories. When I reminisce on such a wonderful time, I cannot help but feel nostalgic. Nostalgic, thinking about my new friends and the memories made. Within just two and a half short weeks, I changed as a person. My favorite parts of Oxford however, would be meeting such genuine and brilliant people as well as immersing myself into the culture, experiencing life as a student at such a prestigious university. The students and faculty that attended the trip were amazing. I was lucky enough to meet lifelong friends and interact with classmates from all of the WCU campuses. We all learned so much from each other, hanging out every day before and after class, staying up until the break of dawn working on presentations all the while enjoying each other’s company. Although there are a countless number of experiences, I will miss my friends and the city the most. In addition, the faculty that attended the trip was simply extraordinary. They welcomed us each day with smiles and good mornings and taught us pivotal information that has changed our views on healthcare.
Now it’s time to go home which means that I will be joining a new cohort. As an Oxford scholar, I am compelled to share a few things that I have learned from studying in the U.K. The first being how different the hospital setting and role of a nurse is in Europe with universal healthcare. The next important thing that I would like to share with my new cohort would be the importance of primary care, intervening in a preventative manner to promote health rather than treating the acute issues. As a nurse, practicing this is vital to our patients and something that the U.K. prioritizes more highly than the U.S. does. This also ties in with the biggest takeaways from this program, which would have to be how much of an influence culture has on a population and the true reason why I chose to become a nurse. Within our time at Oxford, we learned how important it is as a nurse to take into account a patient’s past, including their culture and beliefs. The reason being, culture influences how one seeks care and believes in health in general. This holistic approach to patient care helps individualize and approach treatment in several ways. In addition to this indispensable piece of knowledge, remembering why I chose nursing is also a major take away from this program. While I listened to a lecture on volunteering in third world countries to provide care for folks who lacked it most, I was reminded why I chose this field. My ultimate goal coming into nursing was to serve the community, the less fortunate and help people around the world. Much too often, we lose focus and are distracted by the fast pace life of the U.S. however, staying in a country that does not discriminate against patients has opened my eyes. Thank you Oxford Honors program, I have gained so much and my life has truly changed.
During our Oxford trip, I had the honor of sitting in on some very special lectures which consisted of guest speakers and West Coast University professors. One of the professors that spoke was Dr. Chiarina Piazza, and she spoke about her professional and personal journey in becoming a pediatric nurse, nurse educator, her various degrees, and growing up throughout her life. However, what stuck with me was how she presented her story and what made it special was when she spoke of her life using the "Butterfly Effect." This can be related to the movie of course, if any readers have seen this movie prior. But basically, the butterfly effect alludes to various points in time when a specific situation occurred that had a drastic effect on the course of a person’s life/journey. My point in mentioning this is that I believe the Oxford Honors program to be a butterfly moment in my life.
I would like to mention that I did learn a lot about the United Kingdom and their healthcare system, culture, population configuration, finances and politics. Yet, with that being said, the most important piece I learned was from my fellow classmates just by being in their presence. I learned from them that the key to any question and the door to any opportunity is diversity. I say this because I have had my own experience, which to others could be considered vast, but to me is exclusive to my own subjective opinion. I grew up in Santa Monica, which is a vastly privileged city by the beach with some diversity but too few cultures. Which is why I have come to value this trip so immensely because I have had the honor of meeting the most amazing students from very different backgrounds with completely differing stories.
An example of this can be made by a simple story of my interactions with a special classmate of mine. I was able to watch a new friend start this program with such anxiety surrounding public speaking, and work through her fears to become a speaker that left a huge impact on me for how I view what nursing really is. She spoke about nursing being a career of compassion, empathy, kindness, equality and more. And by the end of the program, I learned that English was not even her first language because she was not born in the U.S. In fact, she is going to be applying for dual citizenship at the end of the year and I cannot wait for her to achieve this dream of hers.
While she is just one person I have met on this trip, she truly taught me what it means to have passion for others cultures, dreams, and goals; to have compassion for their fears, worries, achievements and milestones; and to work even harder to achieve my biggest dreams and overcome some of my own fears.
In closing, this experience has been a beautiful one, but also eye opening and I cannot truly put into words the amount of gratitude I have for this opportunity and more so the people around me, such as my new friend.
My experience has been nothing less than one of the most pivotal life changing experiences for me. When I first started at WCU, the term cultural competence was thrown around a lot. I knew what the definition of the term meant, but that was the extent. I felt that it probably had something to do with making sure patients with various religions, ethnicities, and nationalities had care that was sensitive to their traditions, wants, and needs. But through this trip I have learned that culture goes so far beyond that, and being competent means to have compassion for people and passion for others cultures.
The thing I will miss most about Oxford is being around all the amazing people that I got to know, all the teachers, resident assistants and my fellow classmates. We all came to know each other very well and became like a little family. Also, I would miss everything about being close together, even class wasn’t that far and we walked together as a group. I will miss having meals together as well, and exploring new food options.
Two things that I will be sharing with my cohort at home are: how different the healthcare system is and the beauty of Oxford and how nice the people were. I learned a lot about the healthcare system of the U.K, and the nurse’s role within that system. I have learned that there is a cap on nurses’ pay all throughout the U.K., no matter where they live. This causes some nurses to struggle to live a comfortable life style, because the cost of living in some places is higher than others. Secondly, the beauty of Oxford was mesmerizing, as well as the hospitals. It was great being able to go into and tour the Royal London Hospital, in London, and the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Being able to physically see how the system works in person and hearing about it from actual nurses of the U.K., was the best part about learning about their healthcare system.
The biggest takeaways from the Oxford Honors program would be that there are always new things to learn. I got a taste of seeing global healthcare in action, and by seeing this, it makes me want to see more and do more. Another take-away would be all of the things I got to see while here in Oxford. Everything was so beautiful, and I was really honored to get to spend it with such amazing people. I could go all day with a bunch of takeaways, but I will end it here by saying this: The Oxford Honors program is really the best experience that I have ever had. While I have never been out of the country before, I felt safe and secure, and could really enjoy myself. The program has tested me in many ways, and I am glad to say that I have overcome them, and had plenty of support to go along with that. I would like to say thank you, to the Oxford Honors program for giving me a chance to come on this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The Oxford Honors program has been, without a doubt, an experience I will never forget. I am winded by the thought that two and a half weeks of Oxford have blown past me in the blink an eye. Of all the things that I will miss, I will miss the most out of my friends. Although we have created bonds that will last forever, not being able to see them every day will become a distant memory. It aches me to even think of it as an "it was just yesterday" memory. The friendships I made on this trip were very special and I never expected such everlasting ties with everyone, some people of whom were very different from me.
When I get home, I would like to share photos of the activities that we had done and share background information on how the program worked. Much of what the program consisted of revolved around immersing ourselves into different cultures in order to understand global health nursing in various regions of the world; therefore, sharing ideas and photos of what we learned and the places we visited may hopefully inspire others in my cohort to look into global health nursing. Nursing involves many societies and different perspectives and from this program, sharing my experiences can teach a lot.
The biggest thing that I took away from the Oxford Honors program is that my career path as a nurse not only affects me, but others that I shall either work with or take care of. This program provided me with a global viewpoint that shows me how nursing is affected by economies and how it affects societies in return. All over the world, health care systems vary, yet nurses are in high demand. Global health nursing is an opportunity for many and the Oxford Honors program has helped teach me what other possibilities are offered as a future nurse professional.