Overseas Work-Integrated Learning through NCP Mobility Program

New Colombo Plan mobility program

“The trip was an incredible undertaking and was successful in strengthening relationships with our health and education partners in Nepal,” said Ashley Hillsley, Academic Director.

The January 2024 Nepal trip, which was in part possible thanks to the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan Mobility Program, was led by Senior Learning Facilitator, Anne Digby, and Academic Director, Ashley Hillsley.

The nation’s capital, Kathmandu was the perfect destination to welcome our Health course students for another iteration of our unique Torrens University Australia Work Integrated Learning experience. Following on from the success of our inaugural two-week December 2022 visit with 26 students and two staff members there was an eagerness from both staff and students to immerse themselves into the culture and experiences that Nepal has to offer.

This year, in January 2024 we expanded the program to include 38 students and seven staff members over two trips of two weeks each. Students observed and experienced various health and education sector organisations and the sociological environment of Nepal.

The highlights of the 2024 January Mobility Program

Highlights included visits to several traditional healing centres including a Naturopathy hospital and a Chinese Medicine & acupuncture clinic, as well as visits to world-renowned hospitals including Dhulikhel Hospital and the Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children (HRDC) in Banepa. The focus of this trip was about enabling an opportunity for positive social impact and students were able to contribute donations in support of health organisations in need. With Torrens University now a returning organisation to Nepal, these partners were keen to strengthen and forge ongoing relationships for sustainable benefit.

“We crafted an immersive learning experience that satisfies the same criteria in a different classroom, that classroom being the world which enabled greater introspection for students and a global perspective,” said Ashley.

“The trip was beyond my expectations, and the transformation in the students was extraordinary,” said Anne.

Kathmandu Naturopathy Hospital

Torrens University students and facilitators at Kathmandu Naturopathy Hospital

Building cultural awareness through international experiences

The intent was to include opportunities that evolved students’ cultural understanding, and context of the world, with the added opportunity of becoming global citizens.

The reality was far more pronounced than that, explains Ashley. The experience provided a personal growth incubator for the students.

“Conclusively the Nepal trip was nothing short of transformational both personally and professionally. My eyes have been opened to new possibilities... I look forward to maintaining the strong personal and professional relationships we have built in the region for years to come thanks to Torrens University and the New Colombo Plan,” said Holly Shepherd.

Inspired to fundraise for the HRDC Disabled Children’s Hospital

Midway through the itinerary, the group visited HRDC Disabled Children's Hospital. Ashley said the students were mentally prepared but found the experience to be emotionally challenging.

“We not only explored the beauty of Nepal but also dedicated ourselves to supporting the children of HRDC, raising funds for their care. Witnessing the challenges faced by these children, from birth defects to injuries, was a sobering experience”.

“I was truly inspired by their endeavours and it has encouraged me to continue to look to ways to fundraise for HRDC and look to ways to give back to all communities including in Australia,” said Brittany Hancock.

HRDC in Dhulikhel

Torrens University students and facilitators at HRDC in Dhulikhel

From an educator’s perspective, Ashley and Anne saw what the students were going through and helped them process their experiences through nightly debriefing, a practice that is a core focus of the program.

“Travelling and sharing experiences with like-minded health students and lecturers— forging new friendships, knowledge and professional connections across multiple modalities— has been inspiring, motivational, refreshing and a reminder of why I made this career change. It has also deepened my awareness and spiritual journey while on this trip,” said Marni Rosbrook.

Lessons learnt during the Dhulikhel Hospital and HRDC visit

The initial sense of overwhelm was swiftly replaced by confidence, independence, resilience and self-awareness. By changing their lens to a newfound global perspective, and comfort with the uncomfortable, the students returned to Australia with a new outlook and a tight-knit community of peers, each acutely aware of the power of collaboration.

“My time in Nepal also illuminated many aspects of being a healthcare professional that I had previously not considered in as great a capacity as I have and do now. I feel that health professionals have a significant role to play in engaging the community, making their services accessible and doing what they can to be of service beyond the confines of the consulting room,” said Jack Sloane-Lees. 

“It was inspirational to see how the Nepali people have such innovative ideas and prioritise problem-solving as issues arise. Even hospitals support road development to access remote communities. It does not seem to stop them from improving health services,” said Chloe Hilaire.

“Being in such a big group of like-minded individuals really reiterated the power and importance of industry networking”.

“This was the first time they really got to experience having a support network around them during times of challenge and how valuable that was to their professional development and growth,” said Ashley.

“This immersion in a new environment not only broadened my horizons but also deepened my understanding of global health issues.

“These skills have not only enriched my personal growth but have also enhanced my professional capabilities, enabling me to approach challenges with a broader perspective and a more empathetic mindset,” said Kennedy Marie.

Developing intercultural competence and connections with individuals

The students are far more flexible, confident and empowered within their own sense of what they can achieve. Now, a personal barometer exists to understand their potential to influence social change.

“The immersive experiences in Nepal have broadened my perspective, emphasising the profound impact of humility and community in providing comfort to individuals.

The Nepali ethos of interconnectedness and familial support has reshaped my professional vision, emphasising the importance of genuine human connections in the professional realm,” said Brianna Waring.

“I loved learning about different perspectives and cultures within Nepal. Our conversations progressed beyond our studies, allowing us to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for each other's cultural backgrounds, aspirations, and the common obstacles we encounter as students,” said Tiana Quaife.

Dhulikhel Hospital

Students and facilitators at the Dhulikhel Hospital

“My immersion in Nepal's rich and diverse healthcare landscape provided me with insights and perspectives, profoundly reshaping my desire to help not only women but also the wider community in the future.

My journey to Nepal was a profound experience that deeply enriched my professional identity and shaped the vision for my business. The cultural richness, innovative healthcare practices, and resilience of patients in Nepal provided invaluable lessons that continue to inform my approach to naturopathic medicine,” said Brittany Hancock.

Dr Laxmi Tamang

Dr Laxmi Tamang presents an inspiring talk about women in Nepal

“I have come back from Nepal feeling more present and focused than ever and feel eternally grateful to have been given this incredible seed of social impact to plant and watch nourish throughout the coming years,” said Claudia Smith.

Having seen the sustained success of this intensive incubator real-world teaching model, Ashley and Anne are set for the next iteration in December 2024, as well as continuing to strengthen relationships with our partners in Nepal.

“Witnessing the students' growth and transformation on these trips is so profound and rewarding. As an Educator there is nothing like it,” said Anne. “The relationships with our Nepali partners we have created for ongoing social impact have granted wonderful opportunities for our students and staff to meaningfully contribute to the Indo-Pacific region and connect with the world. This program genuinely allows us to meet our mission of graduating global citizens.” said Ashley.

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