Cyprus – Reflections – by Samuel Bunting. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
I will be the first person to admit that going abroad was something that never appealed to me. Sure, I had listened to the energetic talks of my school’s study abroad office and the life-changing stories of upperclassmen who had gone abroad, but the idea never struck a chord with me. I liked my life living in the United States, I liked my routine, my car, my neighborhood, my Starbucks. As I was thinking about what I wanted to do during my undergraduate career, I made the decision that I would not be venturing far outside my zip code, and I was alright with that.
All that notwithstanding, the question becomes, how in the world did I wind up in the tiny Mediterranean island, Cyprus? I suppose I should give a little bit of background about myself; I am a biology student at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio and I am planning to attend medical school after finishing college. I am also involved in Phi Delta Epsilon, a fraternity for medical and pre-medical students. It was my membership in PDE that brought the idea of going abroad to my attention. I got an email from a company called Global Semesters, offering summer programs abroad in a wide range of things, two of which were health sciences and pre-med. Naturally, anything ‘pre-med’ piqued my interest, but the ‘abroad’ part brought the kibosh just as quick. But, something in my mind had been intrigued, and after checking in to Global Semesters and talking with my university’s study abroad office, I decided to request some more information about the program. I got all the documents I needed and then I called my dad, who has always been my sounding board for ideas. When I first broke the news that I was seriously considering going abroad, even though I had always been staunchly on the opposite side of the argument, he was shocked. But, he encouraged me, and the rest is history. I booked the trip, bought my tickets, and began to psych myself up for the journey!
After a minor, weather-caused mixup during my departure, I made it safely to Cyprus, and we moved into our apartments. My roommates were three other young men from all over the United States, and of all different fields of study. We became fast friends, and soon the rest of the American students in the building came together to form a huge group. We had dinner parties, shared experiences and comforted each other’s homesickness. The first three weeks of the program were spent at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus. I elected to participate in the program that offered specialized classes on the delivery and management of the European healthcare system. Our teacher was a wonderful woman named Savoula, who had been working in the industry for over 30 years, and knew healthcare inside and out. She took the entire class to two hospitals so we could experience the system first hand.
Of course the trip was not all work and no fun, and each weekend the program coordinators had an excursion planned for us to a different town in Cyprus. My favorite was to a small seaside town with lots of character called Paphos. We spent the weekend by the sea, saw many archeological sites and enjoyed the great nightlife. The short time we spent in Paphos is one of my favorite memories from the entire trip, and I am so glad to have experienced it, and to have had such wonderful people to experience it with!
I think the biggest thing I took away from my trip to Cyprus was a theme of acceptance. Just because America does something one way does not mean it is right. I was guilty of this kind of thinking, I had never taken the time to really think about the way the rest of the world works. I think we in America have a sort of tunnel vision, a kind of top down approach where the United States is at the top of the food chain, and everywhere else in the world is forever in our shadow. No one is as sophisticated, high-tech, or efficient as America, so why should anyone care what the rest of the world is up to? Being in Cyprus forced me to abandon my narrow-minded thinking, and recognize that the United States is only a small portion of the entire world. Clearly, the rest of the world is doing just fine, and we could all learn something by experiencing and interacting with another culture.
After being in Cyprus, I truly feel like I am a better citizen, student and friend. I had the opportunity to see how the European healthcare system works, and at this time of profound change in America’s health setting, that exposure was invaluable. Being able to compare the way two different countries go about solving the common problem of healthcare delivery was a unique perspective, and it helped me understand the reason things work the way they do in the States. As difficult as it was for me to get out of my comfort zone, I am so glad I did, and I firmly believe going abroad is applicable to any field of study.
Samuel Bunting is a student at University of Akron
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