Study Abroad Essay Contest 2013

Second Place Winner - American Student

Frank Dumbreski

My parents had ingrained in my consciousness that I had to be successful. I would have to sacrifice, educate myself, work hard and shield myself from everyone else’s selfish agendas. I worked hard, sometimes having three jobs, working off shift hours, or jumping from job to job to bolster my financial stature. I left work and headed straight for the departure of my first trip abroad knowing the moment I returned, I would be working another twelve hour shift. This was my first vacation in almost ten years and I was so excited to get away

Once landing in Heathrow, I became separated from the group. Knowing that we had a very short lay-over I rushed to the gate in an airport that I did not know. There, I asked a gentleman for help. He gladly showed me how we had to go to a shuttle and I thanked him. As I sat down, he signaled me to come over and sit next to him where we began to talk. He was a consultant originally from England but had moved to Italy so that he and his son could enjoy snowboarding in the Alps. We talked the whole time swapping stories about our lives and who we were until we had to board the plan.

While we were visiting Niche, a group of us decided to go out for drinks for the evening. We came across and tiny bar located on a dark street. After only being there for less than an hour, the group left because it was a bit pricey. I decided to stay and talked to the owner of the bar for a while. He told me about his life, his business and his ability to six languages that he spoke. He kindly poured me a drink and we continued to discuss life. He introduced me to the bartender, who was stunning. She joined our conversation as we all shared a bottle of French Champagne and held my hand while we all laughed. When I departed, we exchanged numbers and gave each other hugs like the parting of lifelong friends.

The next evening, I headed to the casino to try my luck. Unfamiliar with the rules of European Black Jack, I sat at a table and just observed the other players to find the cadence of the game. A gentleman sat next to me and shook my hand. He did not speak English but he spoke to me through the use of his hands. He reached over, and grabbed my chips. I was shocked; no one would ever do that back in the states. As the dealer busted the hand, he looked over and gave me a big smile. We shared the pile of chips and played into the early hours of the morning. At no point after the first hand did I feel uncomfortable or in danger. I finally left and once again I was given a friendly hug.

On the way back, I became disoriented since the streets all looked identical. I walked for a good hour and had not seen one person who could give me directions. I turned the corner and there was a man who was not so fortunate in life. I pulled out a picture of the hotel and pointed. He led me to a police station and spoke to the officer to get directions. He escorted me to the hotel. I thanked him and gave him a few Euros for his troubles.

On the return flight, I started to ponder all the experiences I had in Europe. I cannot say on an individual basis that each one was a life changing event. It was the culmination of them all that began the change of my mindset about life. I had been so consumed with working and creating personal wealth that I had over looked what the world had to offer.

All humans have one great common denominator and that is death. We do not go living on forever. It is our memories, interactions and experiences that we share with acquaintances, friends and families that do.

I realized that wealth is not the summation of real property that is accumulated over time but rather the incremental knowledge that one gains. I have decided to pursue my Ph.D. and become a professor of higher education; so I can share my psychological wealth with others and hopefully afford them the same opportunity that was bestowed on me.

Your first lesson: Don’t devote your life to work; devote it to living.
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Third Place Winner - American Student

Angela D'Alessandro

With a pre-determined course schedule as a pharmacy major, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to study abroad. This changed for me in my sixth and final year at Wilkes University Nesbitt College of Pharmacy. I interviewed for a position to study abroad as part of an exchange program for my required advanced pharmacy practice rotations. I was graciously chosen and attended the University of Huddersfield in Huddersfield, England for three and a half weeks in November 2012.

I was eager to learn the differences of pharmacy practice in the United Kingdom compared to the United States, as well as learn how the National Health Service operates. During my stay, I attended lectures and labs with pharmacy students at the university. I found the curriculum to be very similar to what I am taught at Wilkes University with only slight differences. One difference is that students attend a live tissue lab to see how medications affect metabolism in the body. In this lab, students and I treated guinea pig intestine tissue with varying strengths of a drug. Machinery was used to measure intestinal tissue and rates of metabolism. While I was taught how to perform these calculations mathematically at Wilkes, it was interesting to have a hands-on approach to learning this material.

I also visited five different community pharmacy placements and two regional hospitals while abroad. During these visits, I had the opportunity to witness usual daily workflow. One of the biggest differences in community pharmacy I saw is that pharmacists in the UK can dispense methadone for patients suffering with addiction. In the US, patients must go to a doctor’s office to receive methadone for treating addiction. This highly addictive and abused medication is given to patients in the UK under strict supervised doses. I was shocked and excited to see this practice in action. Pharmacists in UK hospitals have a larger presence on each of the wards. A pharmacist and technician are usually present on each floor of the hospital during the day. They are able to provide necessary clinical services and are more readily available to interact with patients. While this exists in some US hospitals, it is not widely practiced. This was inspiring to see and I hope that one day pharmacists in the US can move toward this practice.

The biggest and most exciting difference to witness while abroad was England’s National Health Service. Residents are provided with national healthcare. Some patients, depending on age and co-morbid disease states, have prescription charges waived. All other non-exempt patients pay one standard pharmacy fee per prescription, regardless of the medication. Services in the hospital are completely paid for by the government. While visiting Leeds Teaching Hospital, I had a discussion with one woman receiving a course of chemotherapy. She found it hard to believe that Americans, with the help of insurance, are responsible for paying for treatments.

While studying at the University of Huddersfield, I was honored to meet chancellor Sir Patrick Stewart. His advice and admiration for the profession of pharmacy was inspiring. Dr. Mahendra Patel was my faculty advisor at the university. His hospitality was immeasurable. I enjoyed listening to what others wanted to teach me about their culture and profession. This trip opened my eyes to differences in how pharmacy is practiced but also affirmed that regardless of where we are, our main focus as healthcare providers is the well-being of the patient.

My study abroad trip through Wilkes University was my first time visiting Europe. In addition to my academic responsibilities, I took some time to visit and enjoy London, England, as well as Paris, France. I completed a studio art minor while studying pharmacy at Wilkes. It was absolutely amazing to be able to witness works of art including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London, and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I also visited the Louvre Museum in Paris. After learning about the “Mona Lisa,” by Leonardo da Vinci, in textbooks and art classes, it was breathtaking to be standing in front of such a well-respected piece of art.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to study at the University of Huddersfield. I made long-lasting friendships with my mentor, Dr. Patel, and students at the university. I look forward to one day having the opportunity to visit again and to welcome them to the United States and Wilkes University.

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