A conversation between OCS and Dr. Kristin Stuempfle, Department Co-Chair of Health Sciences, about HS majors and study abroad.
OCS: Looking at the range of options our students have to study abroad through our Affiliated Programs, if you could study abroad (again) where would you go and why?
Dr. Stuempfle: I would choose the DIS Program in Copenhagen, Denmark. DIS has unique and excellent academic opportunities in the Health Sciences. Having visited the program and Denmark, I have really come to enjoy Danish people and Danish culture. I appreciate their healthy life style and good quality of life. Additionally, Copenhagen's location makes it a great gateway city to explore other parts of Europe.
OCS: How important is having proficiency in a second language and knowledge of another culture for students thinking about a career in the Health Professions?
Dr. Stuempfle: Absolutely important! Appreciation for other cultures is a key skill for students entering the Health Professions. Regardless of their field, they will be treating a very diverse group of patients and understanding other cultures and languages will make them more competent in their jobs and more marketable to employers. Proficiency in Spanish is the obvious choice for the health professions, but proficiency in any language is helpful.
OCS: What advice would you give a student who was anxious about fitting a semester abroad into the tight course sequencing of the Heath Science major?
Dr. Stuempfle: It is common and encouraged for HS majors to study abroad and many students have been successful in doing so. Plan ahead and it is absolutely possible. Start exploring options early on and take advantage of the advising and information at the OCS. Do lots of research and go into the process with an open mind- don't be afraid to go somewhere out of the ordinary.
OCS: What is one piece of critical advice you would give to a student before departing for a semester abroad?
Dr Stuempfle: Get outside your comfort zone! Don't just hang with other Americans, but spend time with new people, travel and explore the country and culture. Don't be shy to do novel things. Immerse yourself as much as possible in the local culture.
OCS: While abroad, what sort of experiential learning opportunities have HS majors taken advantage of that have broadened their knowledge of the field?
Dr Stuempfle: Programs offer so many volunteer opportunities for students with an interest in issues around health. Students have volunteered at hospitals, medical clinics, and social service agencies. All of this contributes greatly to a student's understanding of complex issues.
OCS: Do you see a difference in students who have returned from abroad in terms of their contributions in the classroom and if so how?
Dr Stuempfle: Absolutely - Students come back more mature and worldly. Their eyes have been opened to the fact that there are different ways to approach things and problem solve. In the classroom, this translates into a more comparative approach to the HS curriculum. Students have experienced vastly different health care systems, rates of chronic disease, and lifestyle choices that affect people's health. They have developed new critical thinking skills that serve them well in an academic setting.
OCS: How can students integrate what they have done abroad within the Health Sciences department once they are back at Gettysburg?
Dr Stuempfle: Students have new doors open for them when they return to campus. They have more competitive graduate school applications. They are often more focused academically and have figured out in which direction they want to head. They also serve as great resources for our new majors and those in HS who are thinking about studying abroad.