Raffol ’12, MS ’14 traveled with Quinnipiac to Leon, Nicaragua to assist in building a classroom and develop a garden. Throughout the course of her time at the university pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in occupational therapy, she traveled eight times back to the Central American nation to help children and adults with unmet developmental and medical rehabilitation needs eight times.
“What stands out most to me throughout these experiences is the leadership, mentorship and learning that occurred at Quinnipiac in order to prepare for and process the interactions abroad,” said Raffol, who is now a pediatric occupational therapist at a clinic for children with autism in the greater Toledo, Ohio area. “The professional collaboration with occupational and physical therapy staff truly challenged my clinical reasoning as a student in order to drive therapeutic intervention and to provide safe and meaningful treatment in a small window of time.”
Raffol isn’t alone. More than 500 Quinnipiac students, faculty and alumni have visited Nicaragua over the past decade on a variety of service trips. The university is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its partnership with Alianza Americana, an academy of English teaching in Nicaragua.
- Please click here to see a video of our administrators highlighting the benefits of the partnership.
“What started as an annual alternative spring break trip for undergraduate students has evolved into a program that has students, faculty, staff and alumni traveling there at least four times a year,” said Erin Sabato, director of international service and learning at Quinnipiac. “Last year, there were seven different groups that traveled to Nicaragua, encompassing occupational and physical therapy, business, alternative spring break, community health, law, social work and a course that examines the international community.”
Dozens of students have returned after their initial visit for either another trip or an extended stay in Nicaragua, she said. Others continue to communicate on a regular basis with their friends and host families that they have met in Nicaragua while working with UNAN-Leon, the oldest university in the country.
“Through our partnership with Alianza Americana, our students and faculty have had the privilege of working with and learning from community members in schools, hospitals, clinics, on home visits with families, with university students, veterans through environmental projects, with small business owners, in labs, conferences, Spanish classes, cooking classes and cultural performances,” Sabato said.
“I believe the Nicaraguan experience has most shaped me to value the interpersonal aspects of the therapeutic interaction and it challenged my creativity in practice to treat each client realizing his or her potential regardless of background, financial stature or educational level,” Raffol said.
Cory Cerritelli ’10, MS ’11 still remembers the first time she visited Nicaragua.
“It changed everything for me,” she said. “I had never seen poverty like that before.”
Prior to her January 2011 trip, she had never considered working for a non-profit. Now the alumna of our marketing and MBA programs is helping to grow one that focuses on seriously ill children and their families.
She has been to Nicaragua four times since, helping to develop business plans and teaching English and business courses.
“It opened my eyes to international business,” Cerritelli said. “I looked at my skills and how I could tailor them to other people’s needs.”
The trips have changed students’ views of the world and their place in it.
“Each trip I took to Nicaragua was unique in shaping my perspective on the country,” said Ariel Scalise ’12. “I felt lucky to have wonderful professors who pushed us to look past the overt differences in cultures in order to see the intricacies of Nicaraguan society.”
Scalise, who earned a bachelor’s in psychology, said she was taught to question why culture developed in certain ways – and how to work better with children.
“My experience in Nicaragua has shaped me as a person,” Scalise said. “I have been able to take the lessons my professors taught me to other cultures where I have been able to receive a rich understanding of their society and life. I have just started graduate school to earn my master’s in public health, a decision made based on the work and experiences I have had traveling to Nicaragua.”
“One year after returning from Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala with another delegation of peers to build relationships with Maya communities through collaborative service projects and education about their history and cultures,” said Jordan Berman ’12. “This experience really reinforced the personal growth sparked in Nicaragua.”
Berman, who earned a degree in international business, now lives in the Netherlands and works for a socially-focused company that develops and implements software for health care providers.
“My time abroad with Quinnipiac confirmed my love for travel and motivated me to pursue a career outside of the United States,” she said. “I also think back to a hospital I toured in Guatemala. This hospital had a huge patient population but lacked the resources to serve everyone in need. It feels really good to now be working to improve the tools available to health care professionals for serving patients and empowering patients to take a more proactive role in managing their lives.”
Categories: Albert Schweitzer Institute, College of Arts and Sciences, Frank H Netter MD School of Medicine, News, Office of Multicultural and Global Education, School of Business and Engineering, School of Communications, School of Education, School of Health Sciences, School of Law, School of Nursing