Jessica Collins

International Experience Country:
Costa Rica
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

University of Pittsburgh | Oakland

Heinz Programming Area:
Children, Youth, and Families
International Experience Summary:

Jessica Collins spent the summer taking courses and volunteering for a combined 11 weeks in Costa Rica. She took classes in medical Spanish and alternative medicine, improving not only her language skills but also her appreciation of medicinal plants and traditional health practices in Central America. These classes helped her meet her goals of understanding the overall health care system as well as the systems in place for women’s health during her time volunteering. By splitting her time volunteering at both a public health clinic and a breast cancer center, Jessica was able to learn about the many chronic diseases suffered by those living in Costa Rica and how they are commonly treated. At the health clinic she assisted doctors by taking patient vital signs, information, and making house calls for the elderly. While working in the breast cancer center she helped run group therapy sessions, informational presentations, and attended field trips with the patients for recreation. She passed a lot of time both in and out of the center talking with patients and getting to know them and their families. Between living with a host family, building relationships with doctors and patients, as well as having the opportunity to travel on the weekends, Jessica was able to meet a diverse group of Costa Rican citizens, allowing for an incredible, culturally-immersive experience. As Jessica plans to pursue a career in medicine, she looks forward to utilizing the skills she learned abroad and hopes to work in Central America in the future.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: Diverse Dimensions Dinner Series

Our CEE, The Diverse Dimensions Dinner Series, was comprised of three dinners in which international and domestic students engaged in activities to connect with one another. The goal of this dinner series was to bridge the gap between international and domestic students by discussing student perspectives on cultural and personal experiences on campus. Our CEE team designed curriculums for each dinner which incorporated activities, guest speakers and discussion questions so that attendees would get the most out of their experience. A great deal of interested candidates contacted us prior to the program in hopes of attending the dinners. After screening applicants to the program, we selected those with the goals of breaking the barrier between international and domestic students on campus. A small number of individuals were chosen so as to keep the environment at the dinners personal.  All of the dinners were held at different locations and catered by various restaurants in order to introduce the international students to new places on campus. While initially the participants were hesitant to engage in conversation and reach out to one another, by the end of the first dinner the room was bubbling with open conversation. The dinners were informative and structured yet light-hearted and entertaining for all those involved. Conversations were facilitated on topics such as communication skills, cultural values, and relationships. During the third dinner, several domestic students discussed their own experiences abroad and the challenges they faced in cultural immersion. After the dinner series, many of the participants continued to build relationships and plan various outings together. The CEE was successful in bridging the gap between international and domestic students and the members of the CEE team plan on continuing the program in future year.