by Katie Stepp

The University of West Georgia’s Tanner Health System School of Nursing (THSSON) provided nursing students a once in a lifetime opportunity to serve overseas on a 10-day study abroad medical mission trip, all while earning three credit hours. That trip in May changed their lives forever.

UWG nursing student with kids in EcuadorSix students from UWG Newnan and six students from the Carrollton campus–as well as three professors and two nurse practitioners–traveled to Quito, Ecuador to serve the people of the Atucucho community.

Through this hands-on experience, the nursing students were able to see how this part of the medical field works in a primarily Spanish speaking country. The students were also eager to provide what services they could to these people who desperately needed it.

“Ecuador lacks more than just funds to achieve high quality healthcare–they lack the knowledge too,” said nursing student Ashlyn Summerlin.

These students took a leap of faith into what truly was the trip a lifetime as they immersed themselves into an unfamiliar culture in order to help those in underdeveloped areas, all while strengthening their relationships with each other. The unfamiliar people in Quito quickly turned into friends.

“This trip moved me and changed my goals to become a nursing practitioner,” Summerlin shared. “Every day when we traveled to the clinic, there would already be a line of 50 plus people waiting at the door at 6 a.m. We got off the bus to walk into the clinic, and the people would reach out to hug and kiss us and shake our hands. The whole time they would be saying, ‘Gracias, gracias, gracias’ for the services we were about to give them. Many of them had looked forward to this week all year long. That was a very humbling experience for me.”

The students received a well-rounded education on this trip.

UWG nursing student with child in Ecuador“I had the privilege of using my many years of Spanish to help with the translating,” THSSON student Tameira Turner explained. “It was amazing to not only test my skills but also hear first hand how those people were feeling. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to experience the culture through food, song and dance.”

The trip was not all work–the nursing students did have some fun rest and relaxation time as well.

“We took full advantage of our free time there by zip-lining in the Amazon Rainforest and exploring the town,” Turner said. “A few of my friends and I also went horseback riding on our last day. I truly had the trip of a lifetime.”

On the night of its presidential inauguration, the students traveled to the highest point that overlooked the city of Quito for dinner. As they looked down, they could see fireworks.

“Because the altitude was so high, the fireworks were popping thousands of feet below us,” Summerlin added. “Very cool experience.”

“The trip was more than I expected,” said Kaylin Hill. “I learned more than I ever imagined I could about the medical field, and more importantly, life. The individuals in Ecuador taught me to be grateful for what I have and to not dwell on the things of the past.”

Posted on October 2, 2017