Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Study Abroad: Global Public Health and the Future of Water

Elizabeth Krawczun, a Verrazano and CUNY BA student studying Epidemiology in the Class of 2014, had the opportunity to spend the winter intersession in the Dominican Republic on a global public health study abroad program.  This was the second study abroad program in which Elizabeth participated, having spent last winter in rural India.  Below she shares her experience in the Dominican Republic.

I was very excited to be accepted into CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange)/Macaulay Honors College's Global Public Health and the Future of Water program in Santiago in the Dominican Republic. The experience ​reaffirmed my choice of ​​study, and my fellow students ​made my time there enjoyable and emotional at the same time. The reading and daily morning classes were informative and interactive. Dr. David Simmons​​, a medical anthropologi​st at the University of South Carolina, was a wonderful teacher, site instructor and mentor​.

​During class, we read articles related to public health in the Caribbean and Hispaniola, focusing ​primarily ​on vector and water borne diseases, such as cholera and malaria. To highlight our ​readings and ​classroom​ activities, we visited two water treatment plants​, one urban and one in the countryside, ​and learned of the filtration and transportation systems of water. We traveled to several communities in the Dominican Republic to study the effects of water inadequacy, access and abuse.

​However, in these communities, it was difficult to concentrate on the tour of the water system as nearly all the children from the village swarmed us to hold our hand​s​, be carried or to ride on our shoulders.  We met several physicians who travel through these poor communities, called "bateys,” monthly and take care of those who are ill and cannot afford to travel and receive treatment at a health care facility. In conjunction with water scarcity, we studied the discrimination of Haitians in the Dominican Republic; all the bateys we visited were Haitian communities. Often, when Haitians contract a water borne disease, they are unable to travel to a hospital as many Haitians are not issued a birth certificate, ID or passport​. The Dominican Government has implemented checkpoints, so that Haitians are stopped and deported if they cannot provide Dominican paperwork. We saw the devastating effects of the denial of healthcare in the condition of the sick community members.​

​For the course, ​we were assigned two papers, a final presentation and a final exam. For my final presentation, my group decided to focus on our visit to one of the bateys. At this particular community, Baraguana, the ​group​ of us was split into smaller ​groups of four, provided a translator, and conducted interviews with members of the community to determine if they knew where their water came from, when water was clean, how they received their water (trucks, bottles, the river, etc) and ​which water was used for what household activities, etc.

We saw that many members knew when water was dirty and understood which sources were the cleanest. However, most members did not have the means to buy bottled water and had to use the polluted river or rain water as their primary water source. ​When we traveled to ​Baraguana​, we stayed at a hotel that had first been described as

​"​rustic​" by our guides​. When we arrived, the hotel ran out of water within twenty minutes. This hotel, like the communities in the area, was ​only supplied with water for a certain amount of time​ during the day​ and was​ only ​provided ​a limited amount. That night we did not have water to brush our teeth, flush the toilet, or take a shower. We all took "baby wipe​"​ baths. The next day, water was supplied to the hotel for ​only a few hours, so we all took three minute shower​s​, as the water ​was only available for five minutes on each floor​. This was certainly an experience I was not expecting and it was extremely difficult to adapt to having no access to water, a privilege that I had taken for granted.

We took classes at ALPI (American Language Partnership International), a language institute in the center of Santiago and a ​forty-five​ minute walk from the hotel. When we were not visiting ​communities or in class, we were allowed to explore on our own. Dr. Simmons encouraged us to walk around the area and explore the city, beli​e​ving that the best way to learn the language and the culture was to live it, and not to learn about it in a classroom. Some of us visited Santo Domingo and the beach in Sosua on the North Coast. CIEE provided each of us a stipend for meals. Ordering ​in a restaurant for almost every meal was a challenge in itself. Navigating the city by "concho", the equivalent of a New York City taxi but which has a specific route and "fits" up to six people, was also an unforgettable experience and squeezing into the back seat with five other students definitely brought all of us a little closer. ​Not knowing more than a sentence or two ​of Spanish​ before arriving ​was ​certainly a disadvantage, but the group of us often traveled together and many students were proficient.


I had not expected the group to become as close as we did in such a short amount of time. The ​community visits were ​emotional experiences that ​exposed certain insecurities ​in ourselves. I​ believe that many of us became close because we were emotionally vulnerable together. In the afternoon of our second to last day we held a reflection session on the professor's roof, where students had the option to share their experiences .The majority of students shared felt that this trip showed ​them that it is impossible to change the world, but it is possible to affect and change a few lives for the better. ​It is important to recognize this and to understand that we have to be open to change too​, and in doing so we become better people. Meeting the physicians and community members of the bateys ​showed us how true this can be.

The trip was an adventure and I am extremely glad I was accepted into the program. I met people who have the motivation and intellect, as well as the emotional maturity,​ to go very far in their discipline. Dr. Simmons ​("DSimms") is a wonderful person, whose thoughtfulness and care was evident when we spoke in class or walked through the villag​es​. He made the experience what it was and made sure that we ​interacted with physicians and community members. He is an example of someone who loves what he does and dedicates his time and influence for the populations that do not have the means to ask for help. Dr. Simmons opened his home to all of us as a personal space and ​a ​break from the impersonality of the hotel. No matter when we showed up (usually with bags of dirty ​laundry to do), he would spend hours talking with us, trying to help us figure out what type of future goals we had. What I took away from the experience is that projects like this are important and that caring for the underprivileged is important, that seeing the globe as one entity with many pieces is important, particularly for health and global health, and that it takes effort to affect change.

Photo Descriptions

The first photo is of me with a child in the Baraguana community.

The next two photographs are of the group of us on the first day. We took a tour of the major landmarks of Santiago. The picture was taken from atop "the monument". This monument was located in the middle of the geographic basin that Santiago was in and it was erected after Dominican independence.

The following three pictures are from the community of Baraguana. We interviewed and interacted with the community members and the children.

The next photo is of the "bus" that we traveled in to get to the communities. We were tossed around for up to an hour and a half in this open-air seat belt-less vehicle. There was no door, gate or other safety feature in the back and so those of us who sat back there was very afraid that we would fall out. It was quite an experience.
These two group photos were taken from the optional trip to "27 Charos", or 27 waterfalls, in English. We climbed to the top of a mountain and trekked through streams and rivers to 27 different waterfalls of varying heights and types. Some areas along the trail were very treacherous and all of us left with many cuts and bruises on our legs. This tourist attraction lasted over three hours. I am very glad I decided to do it because it was a fun opportunity and certainly a once in a lifetime adventure.
The last picture was taken on our second to last night in the Dominican Republic. We had our farewell dinner with the professor, the Dominican students whom we interacted with, the staff of CIEE, and the physicians we worked with.
To learn more about study abroad programs and opportunities, please explore the following three online resources:
Center for International Servicehttp://www.csi.cuny.edu/international/

CUNY Study Abroad Opportunitieshttp://www.cuny.edu/studyabroad

College Consortium for International Studieshttp://www.ccisabroad.org/

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Study Abroad: Comparing Health Care Practices in Costa Rica

Alexa Zuffante, a Nursing major in the Verrazano Class of 2014, spent the winter intersession in San Jose, Costa Rica as a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship recipient.  This is the second post about Alexa's experience, written after her arrival.

Hello again!
Alexa with her host mother.

I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica about a week and a half ago. The day I arrived was my host-mother Adays' birthday. What better way for her to celebrate her birthday than by having and welcoming me? ;)  It has been quite an experience thus far. Despite all of Costa Rica's imperfections, it is so beautiful here. It is hard not being able to converse fluently with my host-mom and other natives here. However, my professor speaks Spanish fluently and we have three other UNIBE nursing students who help translate for us.  It was a little overwhelming at first, but at this point in time I feel at home.

With the time difference only being an hour behind the United States, the days here still seem so much longer. I have been very busy; my schedule is very structured between clinical, Spanish class, and homework. I also have observed rotations in hospitals and clinics. Aside from school, we still manage our time for fun! This weekend we went zip lining through a rainforest, and we also took a yacht to a private island called La Tortuga.

About three hours into our day at Tortuga Island we got called to "duty". The professors from Boston, who my professor met earlier in the day, came running for help as a man was seizing. I admit, I got a bit nervous because it isn't everyday that you see someone seize or be able to tell such a story. The man was quite young. We turned him on his side as we allowed him to finish seizing. Luckily we knew he was conscious when he heard my professor call his name. He was also able to move his extremities, which was a good sign. I'm not quite sure if the woman who claimed she was a doctor was a part of his party. Good thing we didn't allow her to put the knife in his mouth as a tongue depressor. In the States, we were taught to never place anything in the patient’s mouth as they seize because they could potentially aspirate or choke. It was weird to see the man several more times throughout the day. I witnessed him laughing and having a good time after the fact - it's a crazy thing how life works. My time out here as made me appreciate life, and I am very grateful and more appreciative. We are very fortunate in the States to have all that we do.  

Alexa and the other Nursing students with Professor Lama.

 The health care system is so unbelievably different. In Costa Rica, the medical staff is all so welcoming and supporting. They have such a heart warming, holistic approach in practicing medicine. It is a very relaxing environment, Costa Ricans follow the phrase "PURA VIDA," meaning pure life. They are very laid back and don't stress the small things in life. Everyone here runs on "Tico time," and it is socially acceptable to be late. I am still trying to get used to this because as you may know, we Americans are always on the go or in a rush.  There are so many differences that I have noticed here. In Costa Rica, the pedestrians do not have the right of way, cars do! Their red light doesn't necessarily mean they have to stop, they just "slightly yield.

The most interesting patient that I observed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) was a man who sustained intensive trauma due to a motorcycle vehicle accident - he was not wearing a helmet. Unfortunately, I have seen many admissions similar to this. It is amazing how well he is recovering from such injuries. They reconstructed his whole face! He is able to talk and even has vision in both eyes. Many people don't have the opportunity to have one kidney transplant, but he was fortunate enough to get two! I am still amazed on how privacy here is not a factor… they keep patient's records out in the open as well as their names in clear view. I feel that Americans take life too seriously, we should learn to live life more freely.

"Hacer el bien, sin mirar a quien!" I saw this sign on the bulletin in the neuro ICU unit. "Do good, without looking at whom." I loved the meaning, and we are taught the same in the States. As a health-care provider, it is important to treat every individual the same, and although each individual is unique we must give them the same level of care. 


Monday, January 6, 2014

Study Abroad: Expanding Healthcare Knowledge in Costa Rica

The Verrazano School is pleased to announce that Alexa Zuffante, Verrazano Class of 2014, has been selected as a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship recipient.  Alexa was awarded a scholarship to help support her winter intersession experience in San Jose, Costa Rica.  She will be contributing several blog entries about her study abroad experience this winter.  Read below for her introductory post.

It has finally hit me - in just a few days I will be in San Jose, Costa Rica studying abroad! Now that finals are over I am relieved and even more stoked to embark on this amazing journey to come. I am so excited that I forgot to introduce myself!  Sorry, let me start over!  

My name is Alexa Zuffante and I am a senior at the College of Staten Island. I anticipate graduating from the Baccalaureate program in the field of Nursing as a Verrazano student this spring. I am always looking for new ways to challenge myself to further my education. This study abroad opportunity allows me to excel both academically and personally. I feel the faculty-led Transcultural Nursing and Global Health Program would allow me to not only be ordinary, but to be extraordinary. I heard of this program through a Verrazano Extracurricular Learning Activity (VELA) event offered via The Verrazano School. Before the meeting came to an end, I knew I had to participate. Opportunities like this don’t come around often!  I immediately began the application that was due the following week.

At the present time, I am working for an ophthalmologist where I encounter many Spanish speaking patients. This course requires us to take a Spanish class. Although I am nervous about having to take Spanish, I know it will be beneficial. It will allow me to educate my patients with general medical knowledge, health promotion techniques, and basic medical terms. This course is designed for observation in three settings: a hospital, a clinic, and the community. I will be living with a host-family for three weeks. A what? - That’s right. I said a host-family. I know the idea seemed pretty scary to me at first too. I was happy when I found out I was staying with another student, Nicollette, who is a part of the program. She is also a senior in The Verrazano School at the College of Staten Island. I have also learned that an international dentistry student is staying with us as well- should be interesting!  The plan of staying with a host-family is to gain insight into a culture other than my own. By living with my host-family I will immerse myself in their culture and take what I learn to use it in my healthcare practice.

Familiarizing oneself with another person's culture or way of life will result in better patient outcomes, increase patient satisfaction, and establish a trusting nurse-to-patient relationship. Through my two years as a nursing student, I have already witnessed how transcultural nursing is a trending factor in healthcare practice today. The patient population is growing more diverse in America and nurses should stay up-to-date with cultural competent care. Interestingly enough, Costa Rica’s healthcare system is rapidly emerging. This requires nurses, along with other healthcare professionals, to recognize, respect, and appreciate cultural differences in healthcare values, customs, and beliefs.

I believe that this once-in-a-life chance to go abroad will dramatically change not only my life but the residents of San Jose, Costa Rica. In just three short weeks I will make a difference. All in all I have learned a great deal throughout my time here at the College of Staten Island, but the major lesson learned here is that one can never know enough. I will return to the United States happy to sign the two letters I have honorably earned, Alexa Zuffante, RN.

Happy Holidays to all! The next time you will hear from me, I will already be in >70 degree weather! Jealous? ;)

Funds are available through a competitive application process to help support Verrazano student participation in study abroad programs.  Funds are made possible through the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Academic Programs and the Center for International Service.  The deadlines to apply for a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship are October 1st for winter and spring study abroad programs and March 1st for summer and fall study abroad programs.  Awards range from $1000-$5000, and through the scholarship application process students are encouraged to clearly identify how the proposed study abroad experience supports the pursuit and achievement of their academic and professional goals and how the program would benefit their academic and personal growth.

For more information about the scholarship opportunity, please visit: http://www.csi.cuny.edu/verrazanoschool/study_abroad.html


Friday, December 13, 2013

Researching Performance Art Through A Verrazano Enrichment Project

Adriane Musacchio, a Dramatic Arts and History/Secondary Education major in the Verrazano Class of 2015, completed an honors enrichment project for her New Performance class as part of her Verrazano course requirement.  Below, Adriane shares what she's been working on and what she has learned from the experience.
Hi Everyone!

My name is Adriane Musacchio and I am currently a Verrazano Honors student in the Class of 2015. I am currently pursuing a BS in Dramatic Arts and a BA in History and Secondary Education.  As a senior Dramatic Arts major, I enrolled in New Performance (DRA 375) for this Fall 2013 semester. In this class, taught by Professor Maurya Wickstrom, my fellow classmates and I have been exploring different and new kinds of performances. 

In order to gain Verrazano honors credit for this class, I wrote a 12 page research paper on performance artist Marina Abramovic, who created and still continues to create new forms of theatre. Before writing this paper, I had absolutely no idea who Abramovic was and had no clue as to why she was constantly referred to as “the grandmother of performance art.” However, after researching Abramovic’s works for nearly three months, I now understand why artists admire her and her works so much.  In each of her performance art pieces she tests her body, pushes limits, and tries things that have never been done before. Though her works are by no means complex, they are quite powerful.  

After completing my research for this paper, I found myself highly influenced and inspired by the works of Marina Abramovic. For my final performance for DRA 375, I must create a new performance of my own. The piece that I will be performing is titled Deception and is highly inspired by the works of Abramovic. Deception is a feminist and body art piece that will focus on the different illusions that can be created on each part of the female body daily. During this performance, each of my audience members will have the opportunity to come up to me, the blank pallet, and create their own illusions on me with makeup, clothing, accessories, and other items. This piece was highly influenced by Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 and Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful
In Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 piece, she tested the relationship between the audience and the artist by testing if the audience members would harm or comfort her when given the option to do so. In my piece, Deception, I will also be testing the relationship between the audience and the artist. In Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful, Abramovic used a metal brush to violently comb through her hair. As she recited, “Art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful” over and over again, she hurt her face and removed pieces of her hair with the metal brush. This work inspired me to explore the definition of beauty in my performance art piece, Deception

Researching Abramovic also inspired me to explore the “new” and create something unlike anything that has been created before. With this said, I have created a senior project performance piece along with one of my classmates, Nicholas Easton, titled Reconstructing Reality: Playing (with) the Game of Life. This piece explores the new, which is something Marina Abramovic embraces in all of her pieces. Reconstructing Reality will allow our audience members to think about things they have never thought about before. This performance piece will be performed at 8pm on December 13th and 14th in 1P’s student black box Lab Theatre.
I am so glad that I decided to write my research paper on Marina Abramovic as my Verrazano enrichment project for my New Performance class. Not only did I get to learn a lot about this great performance artist, but I also became inspired to produce works of my own based on her principles.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blazing The Trail: Successes Of First-Generation Honors Students

New York Needs You is a selective fellowship program that helps first-generation college students prepare for and succeed in their careers.  Two Verrazano honors students, Alixandra Petersen and Farzeen Kanwal, were selected for this year's class of New York Needs You Fellows.  Below, they share their thoughts on the application process and what they've gained from the fellowship experience thus far.

My name is Alixandra Petersen and I am part of the Verrazano Class of 2016. I am currently studying English with a concentration in Writing, and after earning my undergraduate degree I plan on pursuing a doctoral degree in Physical Therapy.  My name is Farzeen Kanwal and I am working toward a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing.  I hope to attend a graduate program to become a Nurse Practitioner upon graduation as part of the Verrazano Class of 2015.

The photo is of us with our mentors on Match Day. 
They will be our main source of guidance throughout the two-year program.

In the Spring ‘13 semester we were taking a Psychology course together, never realizing that we were both applying for the New York Needs You (NYNY) fellowship. This is a program which is dedicated to providing holistic mentorship and career development to low-income, first-generation college students. The application process included writing three essays and receiving at least one letter of recommendation, along with submitting our transcripts and basic information about our financial situations. We both became finalists and were invited to interview to become part of the 2013 class. It was not until Interview Day that we realized we were both trying to secure 1 of the 100 seats in the class. We were both so nervous, but seeing each other definitely eased our minds as we waited for our interviews. The interview process consisted of a one-on-one Q&A to get to know us on a personal level, as well as a group interview which focused on our ability to work in a group and think critically on our feet. A few weeks later we were ecstatic to learn we had both been selected to be a part of such a great fellowship.  

The program consists of 28 workshops held over a two-year period in Manhattan. We are expected to wear business casual attire to each workshop because we are focused on preparing for our professional careers. Each workshop is structured in a similar way; first, fellows meet for an hour with the NYNY staff to discuss goals and tips for the day. Then, we break out into groups to work with the mentors on the skill or objective we are focused on. At each workshop we have focused on different things we will need in the professional world, such as: exploring our career interests, writing resumes, public speaking, expanding our networking skills and practicing professional etiquette. To end each workshop, we gather to reflect and share anything with all of the fellows, coaches and staff.  We might share achieving a personal goal, overcoming a challenge, securing a new job/internship or to just something we learned that day. During these workshops we have had the ability to meet and network with the Mentor Coaches, who are young, thriving professionals that are volunteering to share their knowledge, skills and network in order to help us achieve success. We are eagerly anticipating our next workshop when each fellow will be matched with a mentor who will be their main resource throughout the program. We are matched based on a number of things including: preference, industry, experiences, and personal interests. Even though we will each be paired, all of the coaches and staff are available to support and assist each fellow when needed. 

During this program we are expected to secure at least two internships that span five or more weeks. The staff and Mentor Coaches are very helpful in assisting fellows with searching and securing internships at various prestigious companies and organizations. Once an internship is secured, the staff does whatever they can to ensure we receive valuable experience that will help us in the professional world. Internships are a valuable way for us to gain real-life experience and grow our networks in the fields we plan to enter upon graduation. Being a part of the NYNY fellowship we also receive a professional development grant of $2,500, which can be used on things such as technology, business attire for interviews, and test-prep courses. There are also other events which they hold for fellows including field days, holiday parties, and days where we receive free business attire. The staff and mentor coaches really go above and beyond to make sure we all receive the personal and professional support we need to succeed in school and the professional world. The journey has just begun and it has already been life changing for both of us. 

To learn more about the New York Needs You Fellows Program, please visit their website.