The International Study Abroad program was started in the summer of 1997 in Oulu, Finland through the initiatives of Dr. Mary Kirkpatrick, Professor of Adult Health Nursing and International Coordinator. Dr. Kirkpatrick's passion was to give every student an international experience via Internet and/or studying abroad. Students flew to Helsinki, Finland aboard a 747 airplane, took a train from Helsinki to Oulu and cruised from Helsinki to Stockholm, Sweden and Tallin, Estonia. These nursing and physical therapy students participated in lectures, dialogues and visited clinical sites at Oulu Polytechnic and the University of Oulu. While in Oulu, students traveled to Roamenemi and the North Pole with the helpful guidance of Arto Kylamen, a Finnish physical therapist. Students' reactions to the first trip abroad were as follows:
- Sandra Bennet (nurse practitioner at Craven County Health Department) - "Great architecture! Honest people! Fantastic paintings! What a freedom and renewal to go to graduate studies!"
- Debra Whaley (oncology case coordinator at the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center) - "It was wonderful! I learned so much about other health care systems and how their cultural values impact on their health care delivery system. And, the collaborative efforts in learning from each other are so remarkable."
- Theresa McDonald (Staff nurse in CICU at Pitt County Memorial Hospital) - "It was mind expanding to hear how other health care systems work. And, the Finns are so physically fit! Being overseas was truly an experience in itself, as I had never flown."
Since the inception of the study abroad, the events of 9/11 put a damper on the study abroad initiatives. However, in the fall of 2007 and summer of 2008 several new initiatives were begun. Three studies from East Carolina University traveled and studied at the Maastrecht Transcultural Studies Center in Maastrecht, Netherlands, and two new programs were started: the College of Nursing community health course in Guatemala, South America and a co-partnership with UNC-C in Puebla, Mexico under the guidance of Dr. Kim Larson and Ms. Melissa Ott. All of these programs will be continued in the spring and summer of 2009/2010. In addition to the leadership internships and independent studies opportunities, there are other ways that the study abroad initiatives are occurring today. The ECU College of Nursing and the Brody School of Nursing has a study abroad program in Nicaragua for February and September annually. The College of Nursing will offer textbooks and lectures via webinar/video recordings annually. Furthermore, the College of Nursing is participating with the ECU initiative to globalize the courses and international guests will participate in various sections of N6002 as a beginning global initiative. Students will receive cultural competence certification in this course as well as participate in discussion with international leaders. It is hoped that more international students and guest speakers will be taking place in the ECU-CON this year as an effort to globalize the programs, faculty, and student body.