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global education

Nursing student focused on career in international medicine

University of Tulsa nursing student Laura Nichols packed her bags to spend the summer working in the emergency and trauma room at a public hospital in Arequipa, Peru.

She witnessed how citizens who needed stitches would have to first be written a prescription, pay the fee, then return with the supplies before being treated. “They were able to turn people away who didn’t have a true emergency, and the process of evaluating to helping the patient moved much slower,” Nichols explained. The patient must pay for all services and supplies, including the syringe and gloves the doctor uses, before the procedure can be performed.”

On her days off work, she explored the country and learned more about the culture of Peru. “I hiked the second largest canyon in the world, Colca Canyon, from bottom to top. I visited Lake Titicaca, did a homestay with Peru natives and even sand boarded in Huacachina,” she said.

Lessons learned

During her time in Peru, Nichols learned various skills that have impacted her education; She learned how to effectively communicate with others in her care, despite a language barrier. “The experience really made me rely on nonverbal therapeutic communication that is emphasized in our classes at TU,” she explained.

As she reminisced about the experience, one moment stuck with her: “A women was crossing the street, fell and dislocated her shoulder. A man on his way to work grabbed her out of the street and brought her to our ER. She had no ID, so we could not identify her or contact her closest family member,” Nichols explained, who was shocked to see how the news spread throughout the community. Eventually, it reached the patient’s son on the other side of the city.

Nichols is volunteering with the Junior Women’s Association of Tulsa and the Tulsa Boys’ Home and is also a member of the young professional’s board for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She said that she loves giving her time to each organization and advocating for those in need within the local community.

Working toward a better future

Her international service in the medical field is extensive. As a sophomore, she spent the winter of 2019 spearheading the development of training videos for childcare workers in Nigeria. This work is a collaborative effort between TU’s School of Nursing, the TU Student Nurses’ Association (TUSNA) and Little Light House, a Tulsa organization that provides educational and therapeutic services to young children with special needs.
Across TU programs emphasize connections between the university and community partners. In the School of Nursing each year, TUSNA undertakes a community-development project. Little Light House had approached TUSNA about creating the videos to teach Nigerian workers at an orphanage and school run by Right Steps Inc., a U.S.-registered 501(c)3 that supports women and children in southeast Nigeria. TUSNA members agreed this was a worthy project. As the organization’s service chair, Nichols organized her fellow student volunteers to write scripts and coordinate with the videographer.

Simple childcare techniques for minimizing disease

“Many of the people who care for children in Nigeria are passionate about their work, but they lack access to the knowledge and skills necessary to minimize disease,” Nichols observed. She noted they also face many physical challenges, such as having to draw water from a river contaminated by sewage run-off.

TUSNA’s videos exemplify both community partnership and global connectedness. They cover a range of essential topics, including hand hygiene, diaper-changing, nutrition appropriate to the region and bathing. The Nigerian workers, Nichols explained, “can go through our training program, earn a certificate and work at that orphanage, school or other health care facilities in the area.”
The initiative supports both individuals and their communities, Nichols said. “Studies have shown that with preventative measures in place, you can add a decade to your life. So, this training will change not only the orphanage and school in Nigeria. It’s also going to benefit the community as a whole because these workers are going to take the information home to their families and their villages.”

A network of support and opportunity

Bachelor of science in nursing student Laura Nichols outside at The University of TulsaIn late March 2019, Nichols received a NOVA Fellowship to support the video project. “This fellowship opened more doors for us,” Nichols said. “As a result, we were able to do the professional videography in late April. We then edited the materials and sent them to Little Light House by June,” Nichols continued. “I would really like to thank NOVA, Little Light House, the School of Nursing and TUSNA for helping us make such a great impact across the world. We couldn’t have done it without them, and I’m really excited to see where this will take us.”

Nichols said she enjoyed working with Little Light House because she’d never been involved in pediatrics or with children who live with disabilities. “It’s opened my eyes to other possibilities in nursing, as well as to unmet needs here in Tulsa and all around the world,” she explained. “And the people at Little Light House are so friendly and helpful and willing to answer all your questions.”

After graduating from TU, she hopes to become a global nurse.


Overseas exercises: Recent grad reports on his internship in South Africa

University of Tulsa students participate in experiential learning activities that quite often involve travel to other countries. In this story, you’ll get a first-hand look at some of the activities Braydon Rennie participated in during his internship in South Africa.

By Braydon Rennie (BS ’19)

One of the many outstanding features of the exercise and sports science program (EXSS) at TU is the requirement that each student complete two internships during their final year. During my final fall semester internship, I worked with Associate Professor Roger Kollock as a research assistant in his Biomechanics Research Laboratory. I’m a hands-on learner, so this experience enabled me to develop a far better understanding of how to assess human mechanics and how that can be applied to real-world conditions.

Due to a few complications, I wasn’t able to complete the second internship during the normal spring semester. Thanks to the support of my department head, academic adviser, athletic director and TU’s global education adviser, however, I got permission to complete the internship during the summer. So, for my final three credits, I packed my bags and traveled nearly 9,000 miles away to Cape Town, South Africa!

Community health through exercise

The organization I worked for in Cape Town was Community Health Intervention Programmes (CHIPs). The focus of CHIPs is to improve the health and well-being of South Africans through the implementation of exercise programs for all age groups. The CHIPs staff works on a teach-the-teacher model in order to reach as many individuals as possible, most of whom live in underprivileged communities.

My first experience with CHIPS was at a primary school where I participated in an exercise program we had designed for the teacher to implement. I had the privilege of participating in the initial sessions with the kids, and I was struck by the minimal amount of time and resources that were dedicated to them.

Braydon Rennie leading a HealthNutz session with a local primary school in South Africa
Leading a HealthNutz session with a local primary school

Within the first week, it was clear that this would be a common narrative. Many of the schools I visited did not have an organized time for exercise. Even at the ones that did, the amount of time allotted varied greatly. Furthermore, there were no designated physical education (PE) teachers or consistency in the materials used in the sessions. Comparing this to my experience at school – which included hour-long gym classes every day, access to plenty of sports equipment and registered PE teachers – I realized how fortunate I had been.

Nevertheless, seeing how many games and exercises the South African children could perform using only a bean bag and a Hula-Hoop reminded me how simple and lighthearted exercise can be. Two motivators I took away from this experience were that having a good attitude is far better than having good equipment and that exercise is not a right, it is a privilege. Since then, I have continued to challenge others to think the same way.

My own time to play

While I worked hard each week in Cape Town, on the weekends I also had the opportunity to enjoy fun group excursions. These included visiting Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner; hiking Table Mountain; going on safari; and walking with penguins. These were all things I had never done before and, prior to this internship, had never even considered a possibility.

Braydon Rennie with an elephant in South Africa
Walking with elephants

During my internship, I was endlessly motivated to try new things because, well, “when’s the next time I’ll be in South Africa?!” That question became our group mantra and was the catalyst for everything from swimming with great white sharks to trying a Gatsby sandwich (which is, btw, unreal!).

There is something about being in a foreign place with new people that ignites an innate curiosity and desire to explore. I was overwhelmed by the possibilities and by how much I was able to learn in only three weeks, because I was just so interested in everything!

Fresh perspectives

Now that I’m back home, I have made an effort to tap into this travel mentality in order to avoid falling into a boring daily routine. I find this allows me to look at life from different angles to get the most of every opportunity, regardless of how monotonous or insignificant it may seem.

Studying abroad is something I believe every student should experience or, at the very least, consider. There are certain things that can be learned only while in a foreign, unfamiliar place, whether it be career related or self-growth. I can’t thank enough TU and the staff who made my internship in South Africa possible, and I hope my story encourages other students to pursue a similar program.

Braydon Rennie watching the sun set from Lion's Head, South Africa
Watching the sun set from atop Lion’s Head


(Editor’s note: If Rennie’s story whet your appetite for traveling and learning abroad, check out Casey Seitz’s account of his spring break course in Ireland. TU’s Center for Global Education can help students plan exciting and insightful overseas education adventures.)





About the author

Braydon Rennie on top of Table Mountain in South Africa
On top of Table Mountain

Hailing from 150 miles north of Toronto, Braydon Rennie completed his bachelor of science in exercise and sports science in 2019. Now back home in Canada, Rennie is involved with ThinkMotion, an organization that finds creative and fun ways to challenge children physically and mentally through PE class. He is also working full time with a construction company to save up for a master’s program in kinesiology, which he plans to start in the fall of 2020. With his education and experience, Rennie hopes to build an exercise-programming career in youth sports.