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According to the Institute of International Education, approximately 283,332 U.S. students received academic credit for adventuring to exotic countries, embracing the world as global citizens through study-abroad programs in 2011-12.
Weber State University assistant nursing professor Kathleen Cadman has visited 108 countries and encourages students to experience the world. She has been involved with several sustainable health care missions abroad and has no plans of slowing down her global involvement any time soon.
“My first time that I ever did a lot involving health care was probably Nepal,” she said. “I went over there and I trained indigenous health workers in rural regions and developing countries. I had done health work in China; I taught sex education, like pregnancy and sex education, to university students for two years. That’s kinda what got me into nursing. Nepal is the first time I went under the guise of training health workers.”
Cadman’s time in China was not spent with a set group, but she was able to build a network during her two years there that connected her with people interested in making an influence on a global level. Those connections led to more opportunities for her to get involved on a global level.
“I had been traveling so much, and I had seen so many things in the world that I was under the impression that someone should do something about them, and I figured, at one point, I should just be that somebody and do something about it,” Cadman said. “Instead of just looking around and saying, ‘This is an unfortunate set of circumstances,’ I started zooming out further and further to see at what level I thought there would be the most impact.”
Cadman wanted to do something sustainable. She said a lot of the one- or two-week medical missions often do more harm than good.
“I wanted to find a way to address global health issues in a way that was sustainable. As I went further and further out, I thought what they need is their own health workers, and in order to have their own health workers, they need a better education system. It just kept zooming out until it got to the point where I trained indigenous health workers in rural regions of developing countries.”
Cadman said one of her favorite experiences was her time in Guatemala. She could go back to the same communities and see them implementing the training and utilizing the information to better the conditions in their community.
In terms of the more intense situations, Cadman said, “I saw an exorcism while I was in Nepal. Nothing in medical school prepares you for witnessing an exorcism. There was no way I could sit there and say, ‘Well, my research says that an exorcism is not valid’ when they could say, like, 2,500 years of history says it is.”
Cadman’s adventures aren’t always geared toward research. She said many of her bungee-jumping and skydiving experiences have also helped shape her views on travel.
She plans to leave Dec. 19 to French Guiana. From there, she will go down the Amazon River to Manaus, then back to the U.S. “I’ll be spending a few weeks on the Amazon. That is not research-related. That one’s just for fun.”
Cadman’s other future plans include Ghana in the summer of 2014, and a bike ride across the country.
For many students, raising funds to go abroad is the largest obstacle, but Cadman said there are options for these students. She has students and friends who hosted spaghetti dinners and showed informational videos about where they were going and had people contribute money that way.
Cadman said the most important part of taking trips is planning. “Trips look expensive, but they’re really not that horrible if you just budget your money wisely. The money is there if you plan it out right.”
Cadman encourages all students to go abroad and experience the world.
“Every place that you go, you learn more about other cultures and other communities, but you learn so much more about yourself. That’s part of what I really enjoy. Above the people and the cultures and the food is learning something new about myself as well. I think self-discovery is highly underrated.”
As Cadman simply put it, “In my mind, there’s two types of countries: those I’ve already been to, and those I haven’t been to yet.”