G. Wolfmeyer, A. Marti

New York University (UNITED STATES)
It is widely agreed that cross-cultural education through study abroad opportunities adds value to the development of undergraduate students (Roddock & Turner; Lewin, 2009; DeDee & Stewart, 2003; Edmonds, 2010). In recent years, this understanding has been the catalyst for universities across the globe to invest human and financial capital into the expansion of their international services. New York University (NYU) has worked to become a leader in this realm and is regarded as “the” Global Network University (GNU). Demonstrative of its global prominence, NYU’s worldwide network embodies three portal campuses and ten global academic centers upon which 40% of the undergraduate students participate in study abroad programs. University leadership projects that by 2014 a minimum of 20% of NYU’s student body will be international citizens (Wais, 2011). This unabashed commitment to globalization is fundamentally a promising venture, however NYU and other outwardly looking institutions of higher education struggle to negotiate the goals of broad reaching internationalization with the realities of strict curricular requirements of students in the health sciences. This study raises the question of how NYU nursing students from the United States and abroad participate in global education activities, and what barriers both populations face when attempting to engage with the GNU. A review of admissions data from the NYU College of Nursing and the NYU Office of Global Programs reveals that nursing students participate in study away opportunities far less frequently than students of the social sciences at a rate of 1 to 4. This discrepancy is institutionally attributed to the rigorous restrictions of the nursing curriculum and the cost of studying abroad (NYU College of Nursing students are ranked highest in terms of financial need university wide). Similar rational is cited on a macro level when studying the trends of nursing students studying abroad; according to the 2008-2009 IIE Open Doors Survey, only 4.5% of students in the health sciences studied abroad versus 20.7% of students in the social sciences (IIE, 2010; Edmonds, 2010). Conversely, only 0.01% of baccalaureate nursing students enrolled at NYU are considered “international.” This number is strikingly small when compared to international enrollment across the GNU, and might be attributed to strict visa and clinical clearance regulations. These findings are alarming to the community of international educators, because they raise concern that despite living in an era focused on global public health, students of the health sciences are limited in their opportunities to study away, thus creating a rigidly localized context for their learning. Recognizing the variations in patients’ values and cultural norms enhances nursing care, and ultimately improves health and patient satisfaction (Betancourt et al, 2005; Currier et al, 2009; St. Clair & McKenry, 1999; Edmonds, 2010). Addressing this dilemma through alternative learning options such as short-term intensive courses, volunteer opportunities and research immersion experiences abroad has helped bridge this gap at NYU. While more needs to be done to integrate nursing students into the GNU enterprise, it is clear that international learning opportunities can ultimately contribute to culturally competent nursing practice and thereby improve the health of the globally diverse yet interconnected patient population.