Today’s article in the Guam Post focused on our very own CWU public health students (Melanie Sek pictured above) completing their internships through meaningful study abroad experiences.
While a bustle of activity at the Sinajana Senior Center is not a rare event for the local community center, it is only once a year that they are visited by a group of students from Central Washington University (CWU). For the past two weeks, a group of five pre-nursing and early education students have participated in a study-abroad program to Guam where they have been immersed in the local culture and environment.
From hiking to Pågat Cave to exploring the night market at Chamorro Village, the students have been given a guided tour of the island by Mark Perez, an associate professor with the CWU Department of Health, Educational Administration and Movement Studies. He is also a native of Guam.
For the past six years, Perez has provided students from the university with the unique opportunity to come to Guam and experience a culture different from the one they grew up in. Apart from hiking and beach outings, the students have been involved with the University of Guam Adventure Sports Camp as well as the Sinajana Senior Center.
During “Lunch and Learn” events at the center, students speak with the manåmko’ about their lives, their families and what it was like to grow up on Guam. In the past, the group has collected qualitative data on the local residents, but surveying is not always at the forefront of their agenda. “The manåmko’ are sharing with them what the culture is like here and then a little bit about some health, you know, what is it to lead a healthy life in Guam,” Perez said.
The program isn’t all fun and games though. After the first two weeks of cultural immersion where students get a feel for the local culture and specific challenges of healthy living in Guam, students begin a four-week internship with the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
Melanie Sek, a public health and pre-nursing student at CWU, said, “I want to do traveling nursing, so doing something where I actually work with people that are different from the ones I’m used to works best for my future.” A specific question students try to address in their conversations with the manåmko’ is what they feel are the barriers to a healthy diet given the high incidence of obesity and diabetes in the island populace.
While an all-encompassing answer is unlikely to be discovered at this time, the students themselves have found one obstacle is the fact that, as Sek put it, “food (on Guam) is expensive – very, very expensive.” When asked about the response the manåmko’ have toward the students’ annual visit, Mary Torres, president of the Sinajana Senior Center, said, “They’re so happy to share their life. They share their food – they want to eat with them. It makes them feel good that the young ones are trying to learn from them.”