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English Cranfield, who just graduated with a bachelor's degree in nursing, is going to work as a trauma step-down nurse at UT Medical Center. Expecting her career to keep her extremely busy, Cranfield tried to fit as much traveling into her college schedule as possible.
As a sophomore and junior she journeyed to England, France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Spain, Australia and New Zealand.
"I went on these trips through a company called Education Foundation Tours," said Cranfield, 21, of Decatur. "This company is for students, and the preplanned stops are for educational purposes." Cranfield also went to Costa Rica and Panama on a medical mission trip this spring through UT's College of Nursing.
"We went to slum areas and hosted medical clinics where more than 900 people were treated in five days. We had a pharmacy, performed gynecological exams and dental checkups, and did regular clinic work, as well. I learned a lot about medicine on these trips, and they allowed me to gain confidence in my clinical nursing skills."
The mission trips also increased her appreciation for home. "It made me feel so privileged to live in the U.S. and have access to good health care and a good education. I saw how poor living conditions could be in these countries."
They also have influenced her career aspirations. "These trips have inspired me to work in the international medical field and take every opportunity to travel and serve in any way that I am capable."
One particular memory stands out in Cranfield's mind.
"I was in San Jose, Costa Rica. We had just set up our clinic and there were people starting to gather at the entrance. Eight small children were sitting and standing there, trying to peek inside. I decided I would try my Spanish skills and greet them. They were so excited, they all began talking about 90 mph and pulling at me to come play. I took out my camera and took pictures of them and I let some of them take pictures too.
"I took off my stethoscope and asked who wanted to be a nurse when they grew up. Of course, all hands shot up. So I taught them to use the stethoscope and left them with words of encouragement that they could make it if they believed in themselves. It was an amazing experience. I had started that day turning up my nose at how dirty everything was. Halfway through it, I was rolling in the dirt with the children."
Be it for pleasure, classes or work, traveling has been its own form of education, Cranfield said. "When you immerse yourself in another culture, your haughty ideals, misconceptions, prejudices and proud heart melt away. Out of the experience you gain a deeper respect for other cultures. At the same time, you grow more proud of where you live and learn more about yourself in the process.
"These trips have helped shape my personality and have given me confidence in myself. They have broadened my cultural knowledge, and most of all, have enhanced my education experience while at the University of Tennessee."