A Trip to China

Elaine MendelsohnElaine (center) with Dr. Xiao-Ping Shen (left), who started the first private (non-governmental) nursing college in Shanghai, and his assistant (right).

While many college students look at summer as a time for a break, RACC Nursing student Elaine Mendelsohn sees it as an opportunity to expand her knowledge with a trip to China through the International Scholar Laureate Program.

Elaine was invited to attend the International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP) through Phi Theta Kappa, the international two-year honor society. ISLP has opportunities for nursing, medicine, diplomacy and engineering, business and sends students to places like China, New Zealand and Australia to explore their future career in an experiential, once-in-a-lifetime setting.

Elaine's group traveled in June 2013 and was comprised of 32 nursing students from 11 different countries. Most of them were community college students finishing their associate degrees. They toured hospitals and nursing exploring hygiene practices.

"I personally was very interested in how they integrate ancient and modern medicine and the Eastern and Western systems. Every time I turned around, there was something else to absorb," she said.

In addition to visiting medical facilities, each ISLP student had the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with a Chinese nursing student.

"The student I was with had never met a foreigner before," Elaine said. "Her English was really good. They learn both conversational English and medical English. She was excited to know if we also study Chinese in nursing school. Sadly, I had to disappoint her."

This is the first time that ISLP sent a nursing delegation to China, and Elaine said the hospital staff was very excited to join them. She added that the program has tremendous connections and the group met with high-ranking officials in the health care system as they learned more about nursing in China.

Aside from the hospitals and nursing schools, Elaine enjoyed exploring the culture and history of China. One of the sights that most amazed her was an army of 6,000 life-size Terracotta Soldiers that were buried with China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di, outside of Xi'an, China. It is considered today to be one of the Great Man-Made Wonders of the World. The group also visited a Chinese herbal market, a tea house, a jade/silk factory and the Olympic Village in Beijing.

Elaine enjoyed learning the Chinese culture and even discovering a local custom.

"Every Friday night there is an 'English Corner' in a park on the Beijing University campus where China residents gather to practice their English," she said, adding that foreigners are welcome. "They were so thrilled to be learning English with an American. At one point, I had eight different people circling me.  I took the opportunity to ask them how they felt about their medical care."

Through the various people she met and places she visited, Elaine said she got out of the experience everything she could, but left with a renewed curiosity.