Culture Connections Pt. 2 – Cara Wiley’s Journal

Cara Wiley, a senior academic advisor for the BYU College of Nursing, was selected as the recipient of a Kennedy Center grant to represent all the university’s academic advisement centers in learning about students’ international experiences. Below are excerpts from her travel log as she accompanied a second group of students on their trip to the Czech Republic.

Cara and nursing students pause for a quick photo on their Prague tour. Students prepared for the trip by reading up on Prague history.

Cara and nursing students pause for a quick photo on their Prague tour. Students prepared for the trip by reading up on Prague history.

Day One: We landed and made our way to the hostel. After getting the lay of the land, we ate some traditional Czech food for dinner. The students are all excited to be here.

Day Two: Today we toured around Prague. To learn more about Prague’s history before the trip, the students read Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright and each learned about a specific place in the country. Then the students became our tour guides as we viewed the locations. It was neat because the students were not trying to absorb all the historical information around them—they had learned it before. Instead, they could put the pieces together, enjoy where they were, and reflect on their experiences.

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A memorial now stands where the town of Lidice used to be. From this sobering story, nursing students recognized how big an influence historical events have on a culture.

Day Three: The routes of the Czech public transit system were changed two weeks ago, and we had no idea how to get where we wanted to go. Nothing here is in English—it is not like other places in Europe. We resorted to just asking people on the street because we had no idea what the signs said. We finally got to Lidice, and it was a sobering experience, both for the students and for me. The Nazis completely leveled Lidice in WWII because they thought the people were harboring fugitives who had assassinated a Nazi SS leader. Looking at the ruins of the town, I thought about how important it is that the students have not just a generational perspective but a cultural perspective as well. They need to understand what the past was like for these people and how to talk to them about it. It seems there are some memories the citizens do not want to share and there are other topics they are willing to discuss. The more empathy the students gain, the better their nursing practices will be.

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Nursing students feeling rested and relaxed in Karlovy Vary. Relaxation therapy is a major part of Czech culture and healthcare.

Day Four: Today we went to a medical spa town called Karlovy Vary. In the Czech healthcare system, doctors can write prescriptions for patients to have relaxation therapy or other spa treatments, like massages, hypnotherapy, and oxygenation therapy. We would call it going to a day spa, but Czechs consider it to be legitimate medicine. One of the coolest things I did was a respiratory treatment: you breathe in steam infused with herbs to loosen pollutants in your lungs. I had a cold, and the treatment helped me to breathe easier. In the Czech Republic, homeopathic treatment is taken just as seriously as any major medicine would be in the United States. These treatments are different than those traditionally done at American day spas. Another interesting fact that we learned: in the Czech healthcare system, all spa items are completely covered by health insurance.

Day Five: We attended church with a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the embassy and spent the rest of the day learning about Czech culture. One of the cities we went to was Kutná Hora. There are lots of churches there, but the most interesting one was a church elaborately decorated with bones. Although the church was a bit unsettling, the students loved looking around and naming the different bones.

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Nursing students meet up for a break during Czech clinicals. They were amazed at the modern technology at the Prague hospital.

Day Six: Today we did orientation for the clinical practicum. It was interesting to learn a little bit more about the Czech healthcare system and to share some things about ours. One of the biggest differences is with maternity leave. When Czechs take maternity leave, it can be for two to three years; in the United States, we get six to eight weeks. The Czechs were shocked and did not understand how we could do that as families.

Day Seven: We started the clinical practicum experience today. The hospital we are in is supposed to be one of the top-ranked in the world, but it is still so small compared to what we have in the U.S. However, they do have a lot of innovative technologies that we do not have. One of the students got to watch a brain surgery with a new machine the FDA has not approved for use in the U.S. yet. The students talked a lot about how the procedures were different in the Czech. I am pleased the students got to experience a different healthcare system and culture, and I am glad I got to see how much they learned.

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