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ISLP: ‘The Trip of a Lifetime’

ISLP: ‘The Trip of a Lifetime’

In May 2017, member Cynthia Herda traveled with 80 students from across the United States to Sydney, Australia, to study nursing practices through the International Scholar Laureate Program. The next two weeks were the experience of a lifetime, as she was introduced to many of Australia’s nursing practices.

At the University of Queensland, she learned about the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia and tropical diseases. At Prince Alfred Hospital, she learned about midwifery and universal healthcare focusing on wellness and prevention, psychology and social work.

In this Q&A, Cynthia talks about the angel who made the trip possible, how she knew it wasn’t a scam, and the myriad ways the experience has enriched her life.

How did you afford the trip?

I remember the 2016 Heroes of Education celebration well. That night, an angel walked into my life — here’s what happened. 

I was one of the student speakers at the Heroes of Education Dinner at Glendale Community College (GCC) that night back in April of 2016. I was asked to tell my story of how I overcame many challenges in my life, how I was now in a new phase in my life, and how, at the age of 43, I had decided to attend GCC to study nursing.

I explained that I had been inducted into Phi Theta Kappa and then became active in GCC’s many campus activities. I was asked to inform the audience of the benefits of receiving scholarships and mentioned that I was excited to raise funds to participate in the Envision International Scholar Laureate Program to study nursing practices in Australia. That evening, an audience member, who prefers to remain anonymous, was touched by what he heard. He approached me during dinner and offered to underwrite the costs of my entire trip to Australia. I was overwhelmed.

There are scholarships that you can apply for to help offset SOME of the costs, and you can try a fundraising account. Ask your friends and family to donate in lieu of gifts for birthdays and Christmas and simply to support your educational experience. If everyone you knew could donate just $10, you’d have your trip paid for in no time.

I have some other tips that will help you save money and maximize your adventure. Feel free to contact me via email at Please put “ISLP” or “Phi Theta Kappa” in the subject line.

How did you know the invitation was legitimate?

When I first got my invitation, I didn’t. I thought it was a scholarship I needed to apply for. So, I contacted my faculty advisor and then went on the PTK website. I just did a little research and sent a few emails, and it quickly became clear that it was not a scam.

It was an amazing opportunity that I am so glad I took. I have several fellow PTK members who had previously received an invitation but didn’t inquire about it and, after hearing about my trip, quickly regretted their decision.

What made you decide to go?

Before meeting my “angel,” I had spoken with the admissions personnel and decided that this was an opportunity I would not likely have again. I was informed that I could defer for one year if I wanted to, so I chose that option to give myself more time to raise the money. Best decision I ever made.

If I had not asked a few questions, I would not have known about the deferral, and I probably would not have pursued it. Had I not pursued it, I never would’ve met my “angel.” I would’ve missed one of the greatest experiences in my life so far.

What did you gain from the experience?

This trip was my first journey abroad, and I truly view it as the trip of a lifetime. When I wasn’t attending a lecture and in group study, I was able to take in the sites, thanks to the generosity of my “angel.”

I enjoyed engaging with the locals and have many stories to tell about my conversations with an Aboriginal woman in Sydney, an entire Aboriginal family in Cairns, as well as a street performer in the train tunnel in Sydney, with whom I found something in common. It turns out this performer’s act was writing poetry using a typewriter. Being a poet myself, I marveled at the on-the-spot poem he wrote about my grandchildren.

I also visited the Sydney Opera House, the Contemporary Art Museum, the Botanical Gardens, The Great Barrier Reef, the Rainforest near Cairns, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane and took numerous ferry trips, wherever I could go.

After attending the International Scholar Laureate Program Delegation in Nursing in Australia, I gained an increased sense of global awareness and an inflated interest in other cultures and societies. Studying abroad provided me with a greater sense of self and refueled my passion for nursing and helping those in need. Because of my experiences in Australia, I plan to become a public health nurse with a certification in midwifery.

This study abroad program taught me how to approach cultural barriers in communication and avoid them in a variety of situations. Studying abroad helped me be a better problem solver, to think creatively, and develop skills necessary for cross-cultural encounters or interactions. It has improved my leadership skills, challenged my time management skills, and taught me lessons in humility and logistics.

It also inspired me to pursue other global educational opportunities. This summer I will be going to Ireland to study the Art of Irish Storytelling, a skill that will help me provide comfort, hope, and even entertainment for my patients. I will also be studying pop culture and its influences on beliefs, values, and patient views on healthcare, as well as intercultural communication, skills that will benefit my ability to care for a diverse population in public health.

Enroll in your ISLP experience by March 9.

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