At USF, public health goes beyond the walls of the classroom or even the United States. Public health connects individuals from all different backgrounds and locations, and its reach is global. From Central America to the United Kingdom and even all the way to Northeast Asia, undergraduate students are experiencing public health first-hand, internationally.
Getting to know locale-specific practices, witnessing vastly different healthcare systems in action, and actually experiencing the history of the field itself are a few of the benefits of undergraduate study abroad, but the overarching takeaway for both students and instructors alike is that international experiences enrich and enlighten our future public health leaders.
“It broadens their perspective of the world,” said Dr. Kay Perrin, associate professor and assistant dean for undergraduate studies. “You’ve got to experience it: you can’t watch it on TV; you can’t hear about it – you’ve got to be there.”
USF’s College of Public Health was one of the first schools to offer undergraduate study abroad opportunities for its students. The programs have since grown in popularity from seven to 900 students, said Dr. Perrin.
This summer, COPH instructors led three separate undergraduate programs of varying lengths to Panama, England, and Japan.
While USF has offered programs in Panama since 2006, this year was only the second time that undergraduate students were offered the opportunity to visit the country. This year’s program ran from May 9-16 and was led by instructor Mr. Tory Peek.
Mr. Peek said that he always encourages traveling whenever possible, especially for public health students because it offers them such a valuable global perspective on health in general.
“So I figure what better way to encourage students to do that than to lead a trip on my own?” he said.
Ms. Alexa Pavan, a senior biomedical science and public health major, was one of the students selected for the trip. She said she wanted to go because she wanted a hands-on public health experience.
“It wasn’t a very long trip, but that whole week we were constantly immersed in the culture,” she said. “We were so amazed by everything we saw.”