Tuesday, October 27, 2015

MPP Meredith Cavin 2015 Smaby Fellow--writes about Oslo Summer School experience

I had a wonderful experience at the University of Oslo’s International Summer School. For six weeks, the beautiful Blindern campus transformed into a global summer camp in which an incredibly diverse group of students from all over the world came together to exchange ideas.

The class I chose was International Community Health, which was taught like a seminar with a small group of students and different guest lecturers every day. The speakers included a Doctors without Borders staff member who was a first responder at the very beginning of the ongoing Ebola outbreak, a researcher working on the Ebola vaccine, and a practitioner introducing the most basic interventions that can save women’s lives during childbirth (like a condom tamponade – essentially a water balloon that stops post-partum hemorrhage!).

Even though our class was small – only about fifteen students – my classmates represented many countries, including Nigeria, Cameroon, the Gambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Mexico, Croatia, Bosnia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Tibet. Almost everyday after class, we would go to the cafeteria together to keep the discussion going. Over the course of six weeks, we got to know each other personally and felt free to ask each other for opinions and perspectives. For example, one day I got to listen to two friends who are nurses from Malawi debate whether their government should work with traditional birth attendants (as opposed to banning them), a controversial question that raises issues of quality, equity, and access. Listening to their stories and passion brought to life everything I had read on the subject.

The summer was an invaluable opportunity to learn more about the cultural norms in many different settings and to build a professional network that spans the globe. Additionally, my classmates (and dorm mates!) and I built friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I now have the bittersweet pleasure of being homesick for Oslo.

I am eternally grateful to the Philip C. Smaby family for making this experience possible.
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