Public Health Students

Students explore health and wellness in London

College of Health students study abroad in London for an immersive cultural exploration of the social determinants of health.

Group of people standing next to the Broad Street pump in London
London study abroad students stand in front of the Broad Street pump and learn about the 1854 cholera outbreak. 

By Maia Farris Tkachuk

After a hiatus during the pandemic, the London study abroad program made a comeback with generous donor support and inspiring program leadership. 

This past summer, 17 students led by Associate Professor Stephanie Grutzmacher and Instructor Ashley Vaughn embarked on a two-week trip to live, learn, work and play in London, exploring the social determinants of health and broadening students’ international perspectives.    

In the program, each day is structured around one of the social determinants of health domains: historical context, economic stability, educational access and quality, health care access and quality, social and community context, and neighborhood and built environment.  

Reflecting on this transformative experience, Gabby Chavez Tista shared her insights, saying, “I feel that I now approach health concepts more holistically. As a nutrition and dietetics student, I believe this is an important skill to have because eating healthy isn’t just about food and behavior.” 

Days are structured with a morning activity, lunch, an afternoon activity, and a reflective debrief to end the day.  

“My favorite part about this experience is the community engagement. Students experience firsthand some of the organizations and people who are on the ground tackling health inequities every day.” 

Instructor Ashley Vaughn

Activities range from walking tours and visiting museums to meeting with community-based organizations and exploring London’s infrastructure, communities and built environment. 

Stephanie loves being able to design and lead high-impact study abroad experiences that achieve both academic and personal goals for students. 

You might get a different answer from each student as to what they most enjoyed – certain activities, people they met, food they ate, riding the tube, trying new things – but I think they would all agree that the community we made is one of the most significant and enduring experiences.” 

Associate Professor Stephanie Grutzmacher

For many students on the trip, this study abroad experience opens their eyes to potential system changes for better community health. Public health student Kassy Bonanno says, “I have never been in a space where so many people were focused on maximizing the health of their fellow peers through both individual and societal change. It filled me with a lot of hope.” 

Ashley is confident that this year’s trip solidified how life-changing faculty-led abroad experiences can be for students. She hopes that future trips continue to be as accessible as possible to students from all backgrounds. 

Scholarships for the London study abroad program were provided by the generous support of the Warren & Frederica Schad Scholarship Fund and Margaret Wolcott Double Scholarship Fund.