School of Nursing study abroad
Photos by courtesy of Lauren Maransky, Sadie Davis and Emma Kingkade July 25, 2023
Full-semester program seeks to expand study abroad partnership with University of Limerick in Ireland
When Sadie Davis, a southern Delaware native, boarded a plane solo bound for Ireland for a semester-long study abroad, she was nervous.
“I knew I wanted to go the second the School of Nursing started talking about the opportunity, but as the day got closer and closer, I was scared,” Davis said. “I even cried in the TSA line as I left my parents.”
She had traveled to Europe before but had never been away from home for so long. But from the moment the University of Delaware nursing major stepped on the University of Limerick (UL) campus, she felt an instant calm.
“It just clicked. I’m here for five months, and I’m going to make this place home,” Davis said. “As opportunities arose, I tried new things and took chances. I tried to see everything, accept the culture, and I knew I was creating lifelong memories.”
Davis was one of a dozen School of Nursing (SON) sophomores who had the opportunity to embark on UD’s latest study abroad offering — a full semester-long experience in Ireland. During the inaugural immersive experience that coincides with UD’s study abroad centennial, nursing students embedded at UL enrolled in unique courses, learned alongside students from all over the world, conducted research and traveled across Europe.
“Healthcare is a global initiative that extends far beyond what happens in our neck of the woods,” said Elizabeth Speakman, senior associate dean of SON. “Because of people’s ability to migrate from country to country, it’s more important than ever for the nurse to understand healthcare on the global stage. The beauty of this program was its ability for students to gather from all corners of the world and dialogue about global healthcare delivery and care across the world.”
UL students hail from around the world, including Saudi Arabia, India, China and Africa.
“Historically, in nursing, students are only in classes with other nursing students,” Speakman said. “So, having conversations and discussions about world health in diverse classrooms is a huge opportunity for our students.”
Emma Kingkade chose UD because of this exact opportunity.
“Many nursing programs don’t have semester-long study abroad programs because of how rigorous the curriculum is,” Kingkade said. “By spending more time in another country, you can become more immersed in the culture, and the opportunity to make friends outside UD was really appealing.”
Kingkade had five roommates, including her best friend from Delaware. The others hailed from Texas, Utah and France.
“It was so cool to live with people from a different country — that’s not something I ever thought I’d do,” Kingkade said.
Some arrived surprised to learn there was no meal plan at UL. They traded microwavable macaroni and cheese for trips to the grocery store and put their cooking skills to the test.
“The foods we made in the kitchen were so different,” Kingkade said. “Cooking for myself was quite a learning experience.”
Davis roomed with five Americans and a guy from Ireland.
“Poor him,” she said with a laugh. “But he learned a lot about American culture, and he taught us all about Irish culture, so it was really fun.”
While at UL, students took courses like research in healthcare, intellectual disabilities (ID) across the lifespan, and one course that focuses on care for older people. Kingkade, who has a cousin with Down syndrome, learned so much from her intellectual disabilities course.
“It was really interesting to see that caring for people with intellectual disabilities is a subset of care in Ireland,” Kingkade said. “Nurses specializing in this area are more comfortable treating people with intellectual disabilities. It would benefit all nurses in America to have training in congenital disorders because this kind of knowledge helps everyone.”
Davis also called that course “eye-opening.”
“We learned about the differences in how they deal with people with ID and how America deals with it, and to me, it was clear that Ireland has far better systems in place, and people with intellectual disabilities seem to have a better quality of life there,” Davis said.
Claire O’Donnell, course director of international studies at UL, affectionately calls herself the students’ “Irish mummy.” She, too, saw the profound impact this course had on students.
“The students said this was something they were never exposed to or would see in the states,” O’Donnell said. “This module shifted their thinking about intellectual disabilities and mental health and gave them a bit more specialization to add to their general nursing background.”
Rising junior Lauren Maransky also chose UD because of this study-abroad opportunity. She loved the labs.
“We learned about touch therapy for dementia patients, and while we have holistic care in America, it feels like Ireland cares more about getting to know a person,” Maransky said.
As an honors student, Maransky had the rare opportunity to engage in research in Ireland. A paper she co-wrote is awaiting publication.
“I studied progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a neurological condition often mistaken for Parkinson’s disease,” Maransky said. “I learned more than I ever thought about the disease from the patient care mindset.”
All the students traveled across Ireland, visiting places like Dublin, Galway, Cork, and the Dingle Peninsula. During spring break, they also spread their wings and took advantage of the ease of traveling within the European Union and visited Scotland, London, Italy, and Portugal.
“When I was 13, I had been to Limerick and saw a hurling match,” said Davis. “I sent my parents a picture of me at another hurling match at the same stadium while I was abroad, so that was pretty special.”
But Galway was her favorite.
“We spent a long weekend there, and it was so fun,” Davis said. “We just had the best time seeing the Spanish Arch; we got Claddagh rings, and it was just fantastic. We all knew at that moment that this would be a core memory in our lives.”
If anything was missing in the inaugural study abroad opportunity, it was the chance for students to spend time in a hospital setting, whether in clinicals or through a shadowing experience.
“We did do a virtual clinical, but I could have learned much more in actual practice,” Maransky said. “It would have been interesting to go to a hospital there or help out.”
Davis and Kingkade echoed those sentiments.
“I would have loved to go on placement there, even just for a couple of days,” Davis said. “I hope, in the future, students have clinical opportunities abroad so they can take their learning to the next level.”
Kingkade said, “It would have been insightful. I’ve heard there’s a high nurse-to-patient ratio in Ireland compared to America, so I would have liked to see that myself.”
But the lack of those offerings didn’t detract from the experience.
“It was one of the best decisions I’ve made,” Maransky said. “Nursing school can be very stressful, so it was nice to have a semester that was a completely different experience and still learn and gain knowledge from a different perspective.”
Kingkade added, “Different ways of learning and testing make you a better student. I never had to study for a test that was worth 70% of my grade, and I had written final exams, so I had to memorize everything. But being immersed in another culture was so great. Even if it’s hard at some points, it’s so worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
And even Davis, who was homesick before she even got on the plane, said:
“Just jump in and do it,” Davis said. “I was terrified until I landed; now I really do consider Ireland my second home.”
Speakman hears her students loud and clear and says even more immersive opportunities are in the works. She’s also hoping to bring UL students to UD, creating a true exchange program.
“Their simulation is in its infancy, so we’d love for UL faculty and students to come to our state-of-the-art simulation spaces so they can work on integration simulation at a higher level,” Speakman said.
O’Donnell loves the idea.
“It would be fabulous and ideal,” O’Donnell said. “Our nursing students don’t currently get an opportunity to travel because the curriculum is so rigid, and our clinical hours are huge. It’s nearly 50/50 program theory and placement, so even an opportunity for a two-week placement would be phenomenal to widen their thinking and show them diversity and how other countries and other healthcare systems operate.”
Students loved that idea too.
“That’s fantastic,” Davis said. “UL’s campus is gorgeous, hands down, but UD’s is beautiful too. The nursing building and STAR Campus would be great places to show them. I’d also love to show them the dorms; they loved asking about whether college is what it looks like on TV. They’re fascinated that students share a shoebox of a room while they live in apartments in Ireland.”
Speakman looks forward to a long, fruitful partnership with UL.
“We’re going to create some collaborative learning environments between UD and UL, where students in real-time can dialogue using case study analysis, build relationships across the pond, and discuss global health as an initiative to re-envision how we can deliver global care,” Speakman said.
“This first group of nursing students were strong ambassadors for UD. Now that we’ve built strong relationships and share the same philosophy about learning on a broader scale, the sky is the limit.”
Students who would like to learn more and explore study abroad options for 2024 Winter Session and beyond should attend the Study Abroad Fair from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6, in Trabant University Center's multipurpose room (with free UDairy). The Center for Global Programs and Services includes more information about the application process, scholarships and financing. Please also visit the UD Abroad Blog for student perspectives on the study abroad experience.
From Delaware to the World
2023 marks the 100-year anniversary of study abroad, pioneered at the University of Delaware in 1923 when UD language professor and World War I veteran Raymond Kirkbride took eight students to France for their junior year. Today, UD boasts more than 100 study abroad programs in 40-plus countries and has an international student population that hails from over 100 countries. Learn more at www.udel.edu/studyabroad100.