NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- Most college students head south looking for sun during their spring break. However, a group of 16 Bethel College nursing students braved cold, sleet and even a blizzard in Russia for a cross-cultural perspective on nursing issues and life in general. Gregg Schroeder, Bethel College associate professor of nursing and director of Bethel’s nursing program, and his wife, Cindy Schroeder, led the group, which spent nearly two weeks exploring dimensions of Russian culture, including education, entertainment and domestic life. After traveling to Novgorod, Moscow, St. Petersburg and a few places in between, the group returned to the United States on March 30.
"Russia is a country of mysticism for many people," Schroeder said, "but the students were generally surprised by how warm and friendly people were. They wanted to learn from us, and they wanted us to learn from them."
The tour provided plenty of opportunities for both learning and teaching.
The group visited many culturally and historically important sites, including the oldest Novgorod settlement, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Kremlin in Moscow. They also went to the Moscow Circus, attended the theater and spent a day at the Moscow flea market. Several evenings, the group dispersed for visits in the homes of English-speaking families.
"The hope was that students would get to see what family life in Russia is like," said Schroeder. "The purpose was to get them out of the American group so they learn more about Russian culture."
This was Schroeder’s eighth trip to Russia and his fourth with students. This year’s tour reconnected with several sites Schroeder has been in contact with since his third trip in 1996. Notably, the Bethel nursing program has been doing collaborative work on nursing education with Novgorod University for the last six years, and this tour marked the latest installment in that relationship.
Schroeder gave a presentation to nursing students and faculty at the university’s midwifery school about trends in North American nursing education, especially the use of simulators. He showed a video taken earlier in the year at Bethel College of the nursing department’s birthing simulator "Noelle" giving birth.
"It was overwhelming--it was just phenomenal," Schroeder said of the experience of showing the video. "The room was just buzzing. Many of the students had not been in a clinical setting before. They couldn’t tell for the first few minutes that this was not a real woman [giving birth]." The Russian faculty was very impressed with the simulator, he said.
The Bethel group also had the chance to share their experiences and education at a midwifery college in St. Petersburg.
The group spent a day at an orphanage and boarding school in Novgorod for which Schroeder has been a sponsor since 1996. The students played games with children and gave presentations to help the children improve their English language skills.
At a children’s rehabilitation center in Novgorod, the students were exposed to a different approach to physical disability than they are used to. "In Russia," Schroeder said, "there’s literally [no accommodation] for disabled children. No wheel chair ramps, no elevators."
Through all these different types of experiences, the students came away from the trip with new perspectives on medical care and life in Russia.
Students who went on the trip were seniors Katrina Brodhagen, North Newton; Doña Carriker, Colby; Kristal Forrester, Newton; Lori Pappan, Wichita; Danielle Phillips, Herington; Rhiannon Schrag, Halstead; Brandon Smith, Sterling; Angela Steinkirchner, Valley Center; Shelly Wedel, North Newton; and Cavan Winn, North Newton; and juniors Courtney Barnett, Moundridge; Amy Hutchison, Wichita; Janelle Steiner, Albany, Ore.; Geraldine Tyrell, Newton; Elizabeth Wahl, Newton; and Colleen Warman, Hutchinson.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.