Fifteen Fitchburg State University nursing students headed to warmer climes for Spring Break, but it wasn’t to go to the beach. Instead, these students were abroad for college credit, engaged in public health programming with local populations in Costa Rica.
For Genevieve Casucci, a junior from Malden, the trip was a long-awaited experience. Casucci had heard from upperclassmen about previous nursing trips to Ghana, but international travel had been curtailed for the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the email came out that we could go to Costa Rica, I thought, ‘Here it is,’” she recalled. “I went to International Education that same day.”
The Office of International Education sponsors an array of faculty-led study abroad programs, including trips over the spring recess that are affiliated with classes on campus to longer journeys over the summer wherein students live in another country for up to five weeks.
Casucci recruited fellow students to sign up for the trip, and was grateful for scholarship support that helped cover the cost. She was also appreciative that Fitchburg State had created an opportunity to travel abroad that was embedded in the demands of the nursing curriculum.
In preparation for the 10-day trip to Costa Rica, the students engaged in weekly coursework on public health. While overseas, the students made public presentations in settings including schools and community centers on topics ranging from diet and portion control to mental health. They also conducted screenings for blood sugar and blood pressure as well as administered visual and hearing tests, among other projects.
Beyond the public health projects, the students were invited to join the local residents to participate in their ritual traditions.
“We were immersed in these people’s culture,” Casucci said. “They really took us in.”
Students also got to practice their Spanish skills during the journey.
The experience reinforced Casucci’s long-held dreams of being a nurse, which date to her dressing up in scrubs for Halloween as a child. “I always knew I wanted to be a nurse,” said Casucci, who also works as a nursing assistant at Winchester Hospital. “It was definitely my calling. I like the personal connections you can make with people.”
The Global Ambassador Scholarship supports students traveling abroad. The application process for this program opens online in October via Academic Works.