Wednesday, March 22, 2017

SLU PT Study Abroad Opportunity - Rome, Italy

When in Rome...
by Richard Guillen, DPT Class of 2020

I chose to study in Rome because I did not want my abroad experience to happen in a populous city like Madrid. Rome is filled with history, from the center of the Roman Empire to the center of Catholicism, I thought I was getting the biggest bang for my buck by study in Rome. The food also played a HUGE factor in my decision because Italian food is my absolute favorite of all time. 
I was expected Rome to be this ancient classy city. I was also expecting everyone to be super stylish, like straight out of a Vogue magazine. I remember searching up videos about traveling in Rome and the best places to go sight-seeing and best places to eat. I was super excited about going to Rome because I have never been to Europe before or ever traveled to another country alone. In the weeks leading up to my departure, I became very nervous and started to rethink my decision to study abroad. I became super nervous about not being able to make friends and having to spend my semester abroad alone in another country. 

One thing that surprised me the most about Rome was that it is, what I describe it as, a city stopped in time. What I mean by this is that the city has chosen to stay very close to its ancient ties while failing to modernize itself. It is still amazing to see ancient ruins near modern buildings. One thing I learned about Italians, more like Romans, is that they are extremely laid back. There is no rush for anything in the city and it reflects in their public transportation system. 
Some of the monuments that I saw that amazed me the most was the Vatican, the different basilicas, and the colosseum. The Vatican is its own country that is located in the center of Rome and holds St. Peter’s basilica. The basilica looks incredible from the outside and even better on the inside. There is so much detail put into every square inch of the basilica. I was lucky enough to go to several masses in the Vatican and inside the basilica. One of my favorite memories is being able to go to the papal audience and see Pope Francis a few rows away. The colosseum is this huge arena where citizens of Rome would gather to see gladiators fight to the death. Walking into the colosseum felt like going back in time and I was amazed at the details and the structure itself. 
If you go to Italy and not eat the pasta, then you are doing it wrong! My favorite food in Rome by far was the pasta, specifically the pasta Carbonara. I also loved how Italians eat their meals in courses, usually 4 courses. They consist of antipasti, la prima, il secondo, and il dolce. I would have to tell myself that this was a marathon and not a sprint whenever we were given a 4 course meal. There was this one time when I was out at a restaurant with friends and I was mistaken as Italian (which I love when that happens). After we ordered, the waitress approached me and started speaking really fast Italian and I had no idea what was happening. I was able to pick out some Italian words that I understood and from those words I understood that she was telling me that my dish was sold out and I had to order something else. I spat out the name of a random dish that I knew and that was that. When the waitress returned with our dishes, received my original pasta dish and were left with an extra pasta dish that no one had ordered. After talking to the waitress and manager we found out that what my friend had ordered, a caprese salad, was sold out and I basically ordered for her. That is what happens when I become too stubborn to tell someone that I am not Italian and do not understand what you are saying. 
I was lucky to make friends with some of the Swiss Guards that protect the Vatican and the Pope. I became friends with them through the director of campus ministry on campus. They were able to give us a private tour of their barracks and St. Peter’s Basilica. After the tour, my friends and I got the chance to sit down with the Swiss Guards and talk about our different cultures over food and drinks. They seemed to know a lot about American pop culture, including music and movies.
The John Felice Rome Center, which was the university I was attending in Rome, did not have any opportunities for me clinically. Most of the internships or opportunities were more social service based rather than medical based. I did get the chance to serve food to the homeless population at the Vatican and also was involved in a neighborhood cleanup in the Balduina neighborhood. 
If you are looking for clinical experience, then this program might not be for you. If you are, however, looking for the opportunity to meet people who are not from SLU, eat great food, and be immersed in a culture that is completely different than yours, then I recommend this to you. I was the only PT student from my class to study abroad in Rome, so I was given the opportunity to branch out and meet tons of new people from different universities and from SLU and made lasting friendships. The University is also situated in a residential neighborhood, so you have the chance to experience how Romans live, shop, and travel within the city by having fun adventure on public transportation. I would not trade the experience that I had for any other one.

This is one of several posts featuring SLU PT Student study abroad experiences. Because of its unique format, the SLU PT program gives students the ability to study abroad the fall of their junior year. For more information about study abroad experiences at SLU go to:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

SLU PT Study Abroad Opportunity - Bologna, Italy

All the members of the program in Piazza Maggiore during the Christmas season
Ciao! from Bologna
by Kelly Hodes, DPT Class of 2020

I chose to study abroad in Bologna, Italy, a smaller Italian town in central-northern Italy. I chose this site because I knew I wanted to study in Italy, and figured a smaller city where I could get more of an authentic Italian experience would be something new and fun. Bologna was the most authentic and least tourist-cluttered city I visited throughout all of abroad, which was refreshing, but also frustrating at times, as English was not commonly understood. My everyday interactions forced me far out of my comfort zone, and by the end of the semester I learned how to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
One of the beautiful views in Bologna
Bologna is considered the “college town” of Italy, and is actually home of the first university ever, founded in 1088. This university still exists, so there are lots of Italian students and young people everywhere, and it is a more liberal-leaning city.

It is also known for its amazing food, and pasta Bolognese, or meat sauce, started there! There was no shortage of amazing food in Bologna, including pizza, crepes, gelato, meats and cheeses, and all kinds of pasta. I miss the food there every day, and American pizza just continues to disappoint me.  
Some of the amazing food of Bologna
My program was through Spring Hill College, and was made up of only 35 students. This program was social-justice oriented, and we did a great deal of work with refugees and migrant youth coming from Africa, as Italy is usually the first point where they are received into Europe. We went hiking with them, played in soccer tournaments together, had dinners, and more. 
Soccer tournament with the migrant youth in Bologna, where they absolutely destroyed us
I did not necessarily choose this program because of the social justice aspect, but I ended up absolutely loving this part of my abroad experience. I knew next to nothing about the refugee crisis before going abroad, and coming back I have an entirely new and personal understanding of it that has truly changed my worldview. It was so much fun talking with and getting to know the migrants, as we are really all the same underneath the apparent differences.  
Hiking the active volcano Mt. Etna in Sicily with some refugees
Bologna was a great place to study abroad, and of course it had its ups and downs. Since it is a city relatively untouched by tourists, it is a very authentic experience, and I did feel truly immersed in the culture. Bologna was also very central and easy to travel from, which was perfect for me since I wanted to see as much as Europe as possible.
Some of the views you would typically see in Bologna 
However, this can also be very frustrating at times, as many of the people there did not speak English and Italian is a very difficult language to master. The language barrier was a struggle the majority of the time, but by the end of the semester we could usually at least order our coffee, pasta or wine, as well as ask for the check, without any issues, and that’s a win in my book. 
Some of the views you would typically see in Bologna 
I would absolutely recommend Bologna to future students looking to go abroad, but also tell them to know what they’re getting themselves into. Bologna is a charming city that has lots of hidden gems, but was lacking in tourist attractions and the Italian culture can be quite an adjustment. I loved my study abroad experience and would highly recommend studying abroad to anyone considering it. I am so lucky to have had this experience, and hope I can go back someday to visit Bologna again!
Learning to make pizza in Malta
This is one of several posts featuring SLU PT Student study abroad experiences. Because of its unique format, the SLU PT program gives students the ability to study abroad the fall of their junior year. For more information about study abroad experiences at SLU go to:

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

SLU PT Study Abroad Opportunity - Argentina

¡Hola! from Argentina

By: Lena Brocato (DPT Class of 2020)

I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Córdoba, Argentina, which is a city in the center of Argentina that is vibrant, politically charged and full of fun and loving people. It is located about 30 minutes away from gorgeous mountains and is full of universities and college students, making it a very fun and energetic city. In Córdoba, I studied with a program called Casa. This program challenged us to live simply and love extravagantly. It focuses on four pillars: Community, Accompaniment, Spirituality and Academics. We were each assigned a "Praxis site", or service site, that we went to two times a week for the semester. At my praxis site I got the opportunity to work with a foundation that helps support young adults that are struggling financially by providing them with magazines to sell in the city. This foundation, La Luciérnaga, also provides these young adults with meals, clothes and classes on professionalism in hopes that they can get more stable jobs. My role was accompaniment based, so I spent the morning working with a few women, preparing lunch, cleaning the building and organizing what ever they need. Then in the afternoon I got to spend time with the people that sell the magazines. It was my absolute favorite part of the entire week! These people do not lead easy lives and yet they are so full of joy and have great, goofy spirits. It was so nice of them to take time out of their days to chit-chat with me. It is very rewarding to get to use my Spanish to connect with these "Canillitas,” or the people selling magazines, that I would not otherwise get a chance to know.

Photo I took of the Canillitas in their backyard area at La Luciérnaga
On top of the great experience of Praxis and adventuring through Córdoba, we also had the chance to explore other parts of Argentina! I went to Buenos Aires, Las Sierras, Bariloche and El Bolsón and have met some great Argentine friends through our classes and lives in the city. 

Las Sierras, Córdoba
Casa in Argentina is a unique study abroad experience that I would recommend to anyone who is ready to challenge themselves through uncomfortable situations, experience things that can change your worldview and push yourself to learn how to better love and show empathy to others. Although my semester did not have a Health Science focus, I learned more about what it means to “walk” with others and meet them where they are than I think I ever would have, had I stayed in the states. 

March in opposition of racial profiling and police brutality with Casa students and people from La Luciérnaga through Córdoba
This is one of several posts featuring SLU PT Student study abroad experiences. Because of its unique format, the SLU PT program gives students the ability to study abroad the fall of their junior year. For more information about study abroad experiences at SLU go to:

Monday, March 6, 2017

2017 PT STUCO Kickball Tournament

Congratulations to the Juniors for winning the PT STUCO Kickball Tournament!  

Our PT classes came together on March 4th at noon at Vandy Field to take advantage of the great weekend weather and show off their hip flexion/knee extension skills! It was a fun time and great opportunity to get all of the PT classes together to compete.

The freshmen and the juniors made quite a  showing. Yeah!   PY1s and PY2s had a combined team with lots of energy and laughs.

See you next year!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

SLU PT Study Abroad Opportunity - South Africa

Molo! from South Africa

By: Caroline Lipic (DPT Class of 2020)
Molo! Molo is translated to hello in Xhosa, one of the eleven national languages of South Africa. My name is Caroline, and I was given the unique experience to study abroad for a semester. Given that most physical therapy students are not granted this opportunity, I wanted to make sure I took full advantage of this chance to see the practice of physical therapy on a global scale. Yet, I also wanted to get to know the people of a different culture and grow in community. After reviewing study abroad programs, I found that the South Africa Service Learning Program through Marquette University was the perfect match. Here I had the opportunity to meet influential South African leaders work with physical therapists at a school for children who are differently abled, Tembaletu, and live in community with 18 other students from Jesuit institutions. Of course the tip of the iceberg, was the fact that Cape Town is a beautiful city filled with mountains, beaches, and a thriving metropolitan area.

What did you anticipate? Were you nervous? Excited?

Before arriving to South Africa, I did a lot of research about their deep history regarding colonization, apartheid, the struggle, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I prepared for the adventures that I would have by buying hiking boots, following nearly ten different Cape Town instagram pages, and communicating with alum from the program. Being “born and raised” in STL, this was going to be the longest I have ever been away from home. I found this more exciting than nerve racking. I could not wait to hike, swim with sharks, bungee jump, try new foods, develop relationships, and gain a global perspective. Yet there was still this unease of not knowing what to expect for the next four months. Jokingly, my mom’s biggest fear was that I was going to be step on by an elephant. Due to the fact that I was primarily in an urban area, this was not of high concern. In all reality, my biggest challenge would be accustoming to the culture. So, a lot of emotions were bundled up inside of me prior to leaving. Yet, I was ready to take on this experience head on. A lot of people had helped me get to this point, and I owed it to them and myself to have an experience of a life-time.

What surprised you the most about your experience? What about the other culture surprised or shocked you?
The initial shock of being in South Africa for some reason caused me to have deja vu moments often. From my plane window, I was able to differentiate between townships, the Cape Flats, and urban city area. The fist week we were kept busy with service site visits, orientation at University of Western Cape (fist university in Cape Town to oppose apartheid), and cultural dinners at Marco’s. The effects of apartheid (separation of White, Malaysian, Colored, and Black from 1948-1994) was evident through interactions with people and views of physical locations. Despite the fact that there are still major social, physical, and economical scars of apartheid, the people were very prideful of the country’s ability to take the high road through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC was an initiative set up by the Government of National Unity to aid in the healing of the country after severe human rights violations during apartheid. People came forth and apologize for aiding in violent acts, and asked for amnesty and victims forgave their perpetrators. Public and private programs were established (Amy Biehl Foundation, Nelson Mandela Foundation, Saint Ann’s Shelter), interactive museum were built, and peace of mind was achieved through this commission. Due to this, there was an evident feeling of hope in this nation. Other small shocks involving my transition involved the response of “pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome” or the fact that cucumbers were called marrow. 
What did you see (monuments, historical sites, palaces, etc.) that impressed you the most?
Every Friday, all Iziko South African Museums are free for students; therefore, our group too full advantage. We visited the District Six Museum, tribute to the colored population that lived in this location before apartheid, then displaced to the Cape Flats due to systemic racism during apartheid. The tour guides at this museum are people who lived here prior to the displacement. 
Robben Island, which is where Nelson Mandela was held for the 18 out of 27 years he was in jail. The tour guides for this museum are previous prisoners who were detained due racial discrimination. Other museum include: Bo-Kaap Museum, Apartheid Museum, Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, Slave Lodge, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, South Africa Museum, South Africa National Gallery, Two Ocean’s Aquarium.

Hiking on Cape Town’s three peaks (Devils Peak, Table Mountain, and Lion’s Head) was a bi-weekly and sometimes even tri-weekly activity. Especially when there was a full moon. People from all over Cape Town hike up Lion’s Head to see the sunset and the rise of the full moon. We even made it up there for the viewing of the super moon this year! Other hiking adventures involved hiking all three peaks in 18 hours. It was most certainly a bonding experience for the K-house (where we lived) girls.
Part of this program also included anti-apartheid leader speakers who lectured to us every Friday.
Through this experience I had the opportunity to meet former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Winner 1984), John De Gruchy (Anti-apartheid leader and author of "No Future Without Reconciliation"), Mary Burton (member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission), Carol Bower (former director of multiple children's rights organizations), Funeka Soldaat (Lesbian assault and abuse activist), Nwabisa Bonxo (founder of Sinako After School program, politician in the ANC, and member of the MK), Ntobeko Nofemela (one of the convicted men who killed Amy Biehl), and Edwin Arrison (chairperson of NC4P).  
One of the more memorial moments was when we attended service lead by Desmond Tutu at St. George’s Cathedral. He has had this service every Friday morning since the end of apartheid in order to gather likely minded individuals in order to pray about the countries future. Before the service began, Tutu asked everyone who he did not recognize to stand up and say their name and where they are from. Then, at the sign of peace, this woman came up to me and said that she had graduated from Saint Louis University. The two of us bonded over being fellow Billikens! At the end of the service, he sunk back in his chair as people thanked him for all he has done for the country of South Africa and world in general. His humble and kind presence is something that I will never forget. 

Can you describe some of the food that you loved best? Any food experiences that didn’t go as planned/well? 
If you know me, you know that I love spicy, colorful, and texture full plates! South African cuisine provided me with all three. More traditional food would be chicken curry (Malaysian influence) or some sort of stew soaked in pap, a stickier version of grits. We would go to Big Mamma’s for fast take-out traditional food, but once or twice we went to Marco’s African Place. Here we had springbok, lamb stew, ostrich, kudu, and finish it off with malva bread pudding. At Marco’s there was also traditional Zulu singers and dancers who interacted with the audience to come up and dance!

Yet, Braii’s were the K-House guy and gal’s favorite way to have a family dinner. Braiis are a South African BBQ, expect instead of grilling burgers and hot dogs, you grill lamb and chicken drenched in Savannah Dry’s and rubbed with Braii seasoning. We would normally have Braiis at the house and invite our friends from University of Western Cape and Service to join.  
Did you make friends with some of the people native to that site? What was that experience like? Did they make you notice things about your own culture that surprised you?
Tembaletu which means “Our Hope” in Xhosa was the school where I volunteered at during my duration in Cape Town. It is in the Guglathu township and is a public school specifically for children with physical disabilities, who speak Xhosa, and want a mainstream curriculum. Since, this is the only school of it’s kind in the Western Cape, children came from all over the Western Cape. Given this, the school has a hostel where students who live too far away or have compromising family situations can stay during the week.
My bruuuus, Dylan and Leilah, were the two physio-therapists that I worked with throughout the day. I learned so much from these two. The kid’s adored Dylan or Mr. D. He would explain to me that while we were playing a competitive game of wheel-barrel, he was evaluating the student’s upper-extremity and core strength or how he buys colorful duct tap to put on the kid’s prosthetics so that they are not scared of them. Leilah has a compassionate nature, and has a strong desire for the kids to push themselves. She brought little things to my attention, such as the importance of teaching a child how to sit up with out drooling, since it would effect their ability to be hired in the future. Watching her interact with the kids, and reminding them that they do have expectations in life has inspired me to approach my future profession with passion. I also grew close with the other therapists on staff: Colleen and Wendy (speech therapists), Melissa and Naz (occupational therapists), and Sister (nurse).
At University of Western Cape, I also made friends with my classmates. I definitely got an interesting perspective from these individuals. There has been a national protest on high tuition fees in South Africa since last year; the movement is called “Fees Must Fall.” This is issue is rooted in systematic oppression of the black population and their inability to afford tertiary education. After protesting efforts were effective last year, Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s President, promised to lower fees and provide other accommodations for students such as better transportation to universities. Yet, these promises were not followed through, and as a result, protesting has continued on campuses nation wide. My friends from school had a diverse view on the situation. A lot of my friends who were graduating this year, were worried about graduating on time. Yet, other friends were scared that if the protest did not work, they would not be able to continue with their education. Conversations with these individuals has open up my eyes to see beyond the surface level issue and to the actual root of the problem. 
 Also, I cannot forget about the K-House girls and boy. Yes, there were 18 of us girls and one boy. We grew as a community together over the four months we were abroad. I can honestly say that the energy in that house was like nothing I had every experienced before. I owe my wonderful experience to everyone in that house, including the program coordinators and staff. 

How was your clinical experience? Did you have the opportunity to learn about new methods or equipment or participate in research?
Two days out of the week I participated in service at Tembaletu (Only Xhosa speaking and mainstream curriculum school for the differently abled in Cape Town in Gugulethu Township) and Sinako After School Program. At Tembaletu, I assisted the physio-therapists with treatments, fixed wheelchairs, led a weigh lifting class, and chaperoned students to visits in the Orthopedic Center. The children were so enthusiastic and motivated despite their conditions (spina bifida, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, gunshot victims, etc.). They loved to "jika jika" (twist in Xhosa) during therapy sessions, and can crank out push-ups like no other! It would melt my heart, as I watch kids fight over who got to push their friend in their wheelchair.
As part of this program, two other students (Ben Zellmer and Kali Swindell) and I have conducted an advocacy/research project on the need for wheelchair cushions at the school. Wheelchair cushions are in high demand, since they are recommended to be replaced every 6 months in order to prevent pressure sores, infection, and deformed posture in patients. Through our outreach, we have been able raise $645 to go towards future wheelchair cushions and develop a relationship between Comfort Company (wheelchair cushion distributor) and Tembaletu in which they will provide extra wheelchair materials to the school. Additionally, I worked at Sinako After School Program where I helped coach soccer and volleyball teams with kids from Nomlinganiselo (primary school in Nyanga).

Would you recommend that other PT students study abroad for clinical experience? Would you recommend your site to them?
Undoubtedly, yes! Through this experience I was able to take out everything that I possibly could from my study abroad experience. I would like to say, “Enkosi (Thank you in Xhosa) to Saint Louis University for making it a possibility to study abroad in South Africa. Though this sounds cliché, this experience has truly changed by spiritual, academic, and personal life. I’m going to continue my service here in Saint Louis, as Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little acts of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
This is one of several posts featuring SLU PT Student study abroad experiences.  Because of its unique format, the SLU PT program gives students the ability to study abroad the fall of their junior year.  For more information about study abroad experiences at SLU go to: