Six College of Public Health and Human Sciences students not only studied abroad in London for three weeks and earned nine public health credits this summer, they were also a part of history in the making.
Led by CPHHS Assistant Professor Stephanie Grutzmacher and Head Advisor Shannon Foley, the students traveled through the city looking at public health challenges, including social determinants of health, health inequity and health in low-income countries, broadening the students’ international perspectives.
“We were there during a difficult time for the UK,” Stephanie says. “The murder of Jo Cox, the surprising Brexit vote and subsequent political and economic fallout and uncertainty; and the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Somme, one of the UK’s deadliest days in war. In a lot of ways, the challenges the British people face in deciding what their future will now hold mirror many of our own in the United States.”
Despite the region’s turmoil, the students garnered positive and lasting impressions from the experience. One of their main assignments was to create Instagram posts and a photo essay for each of their three classes. Stephanie choose Instagram as a platform because aside from Snapchat, students use it more than any other social media site. She also loves photography and believes pictures are a great communication tool for stakeholders and future participants to understand what the trip was about.
“I really wanted the students to have to think about the connections they were seeing among their course topics, field trips and other experiences throughout the trip,” Stephanie says. “I also wanted them to breathe in global cultures and perspectives, social determinants and public health all day long so I felt I had to send them on a scavenger hunt of sorts, looking for meaning in unlikely places.”
Some of those places include The Old Operating Theatre Museum, public transportation, Cambridge University, the Royal Society of Medicine Library and neighborhood fruit stands. Objects representing public health appear in the posts, including bottled water with mineral content listings, public bike share stations, and messages about air quality and charitable giving.
The trip wasn’t all work and no play. Pictures from the London Zoo, afternoon tea, A Midsummer Night’s Dream performance at the historic Globe Theatre, Camden Market, Windsor Castle and Big Ben solidify the group had a well-rounded experience.
For Kiana Barr, a junior in Human Development and Family Science, her experience has left a lasting mark on her educational journey. Kiana even extended her trip and traveled for a week on her own in London and another week in Rotterdam, Holland.
“My favorite part of being in London was simply being immersed in the city,” she says. “Our classes taught me a lot about how different people approach their own health, and we studied social factors of health and health systems all over the world. It was a good reminder of the diversity of experiences around the world.”
Kiana says that her favorite part of the Instagram project was being able to work collaboratively with her classmates in discussing ideas for their posts. “The project really engaged me throughout the day and helped us to process what we were learning in class and translate that to real life in London.”
“An international experience can widen a student’s perspective in so many ways,” Stephanie says. “It increases awareness of the strengths and challenges experienced by people around the world, which may widen a student’s circle of compassion and commitment to global citizenship. It builds competence to act and interact in a global society. It expands an individual’s openness to new and unfamiliar experiences and ways of knowing, doing and being.”
Student photos appear in the following project hashtags:
Select student photo essays:
Social Determinants (PDF)