Rising 3rd year student Kelly Murray recently returned from a four-week study abroad to Cyprus. As the Chicago-area native gears up for the start of the fall semester, she sent us some thoughts from her time overseas. You can read more about her trip on Instagram @kickinbuttkell.
What was the impetus to go abroad?
- I have not traveled much before this summer . . . I really wanted to study abroad because it is something that everyone says you should try to do in college, and with COVID, I really felt like it was something I needed to do if given the opportunity. I also knew it was something out of my comfort zone, and the cultural experience would help me understand others in my future career.
"When you go somewhere that you've never been, you learn how different things are from what you are used to [but how, despite the differences] everything works fine . . . there is no one right way."Kelly Murray, 3rd year, who studied in Cyprus during summer 2021
What did you do and see?
Cyprus is a Mediterranean island close to the Middle East, but Greek in culture. We traveled to different parts of the island and got to visit a lot of ancient archaeological and cultural sites . . . Aphrodite's rock, which is where the mythological goddess of Love and Beauty was born, the Blue Lagoon, which has the bluest water in the Mediterranean, and the Adonis Baths. With one of my classes, we also got to visit two Cypriot hospitals, which was cool to see the differences between there and the U.S. Their structures reminded me more of an airport rather than a hospital; it was only two levels and a longer building with a bare inside/outside.
I also tried a lot of different foods and even learned a few Greek words, like Ya sou (hello and goodbye), Kalimera (good morning), efharisto (thank you), ne (yes), ohi (no), Parakalo (please/you’re welcome), Yamas (cheers!).
What’s it like to study abroad during a pandemic?
- It was definitely more challenging . . . For a while, I didn't even know if I was going to be able to go, or what the conditions would be while there. However, although there were more hoops to jump through, I got the full study abroad experience. Because there were fewer students in the program, it was lot easier to get to know and become friends with everyone. In addition, I felt safe while abroad not only because most all of us had been vaccinated, but there were also extra precautions put in place, such as single rooms, that made the experience mostly stress-free.
What impressions of the Cypriot healthcare system – and Cyprus more broadly – did you take away?
- Their system is pretty different than ours because it is majorly funded by the government. Everyone there has health insurance that is government-funded through paying a certain amount based on their salary. They have limits on the amount of money providers/pharmaceutical companies can charge, and it is a set price that cannot be changed. However, if someone has the means and would like the brand-name drug or access to a different provider or specialist, they are allowed to pay extra.
In addition, the island only has a handful of hospitals, and I believe only one that can care for pediatric patients; there are a few operations/conditions that they are not equipped to handle in Cyprus, but the government insurance covers the cost for the individual to travel to another country to receive the necessary care.
A few other things I noticed that don't have to do with healthcare that is different from the United States include not being able to put toilet paper down the toilet, primarily drying clothes on a rack outside, and a huge effort to conserve energy. In the apartments and hotels we stayed in, we had to put the key card in a slot inside the room before the electricity would work. Also, anytime you opened the porch or balcony door, the air conditioning would automatically shut off.
How do you think the experience will impact or flavor your nursing?
- Going for something that was completely different, new, and out of my comfort zone really tested my ability to adapt and put myself out there. Besides the knowledge I learned from the class I took about the different healthcare systems and how it compares to the U.S, I learned a lot from seeing the different influences of culture and how that impacts someone's life and health. I think that studying abroad will enrich my nursing because it showed me that there is more than just one perspective or one way to do something. It also helped me enhance the skill of flexibility and adaptability—both important in nursing.
When you go somewhere that you've never been, you learn how different things are from what you are used to [but how, despite the differences] everything works fine . . . there is no one right way.
I think I have changed in how I look at life. It is important to take a leap because sometimes it turns out to be the best time of your life.