Autumn Arel (USA)

Autumn Arel completed a semester of study abroad and took subjects from the JCU Bachelor of Nursing [Pre-registration] program at JCU via a study abroad partnership between James Cook University and Fairfield University in Connecticut, USA.

Why did you choose study abroad at JCU?

I was fortunate that my home university, Fairfield University in Connecticut in the USA, had a partnership with JCU. It was a very easy transfer over with my subjects in the Bachelor of Nursing [Pre-registration]. Australia has always been on my bucket list, and I figured when else in my life will I get to experience living abroad in Australia and being in a new environment and culture while pursuing something I am passionate about, which is nursing.

What have been some of your best experiences?

My best experience was my placement at Townsville University Hospital. It was amazing to get to work with all the nurses. They were all so friendly, and I got to use so many of my nursing skills, which I hadn’t really been able to do yet at my home university. It was exciting to be able to interact with patients and to see the different cultures and ideas of medicine.

We do a lot of exams back home and in Australia, we did a lot of case studies and essays as assignments. For example, one of my essays was about someone getting stung by a jellyfish and where I am from, that would never be a thing! It was interesting to get a different perspective on the types of cases you might get in Australia because of where we are in tropical Queensland.

Autumn Arel (left) with her fellow peers from Fairfield University who all participated in the study abroad program at JCU

Autumn Arel (left) with her fellow peers from Fairfield University who all participated in the study abroad program at JCU.

While nursing skills are similar at the end of the day, it’s very interesting to see the ways that Australian medicine is different from American medicine. It gave me a unique perspective to bring back to the States as I finish my degree. For example, I had the privilege of working with a patient who identified as Aboriginal. Unfortunately, she did pass away while I was caring for her, however, it was a very profound experience to be able to be there with her family and see their grieving process and how that is very different from the way that my family would grieve and the way those in the USA would grieve. It was also a humbling experience to learn the role of the nurse through that process because I had never been there for the passing of a person before and how to support people who may have different beliefs than you. There’s something beautiful about being with someone in their last moments and being able to provide them with dignity and respect. It was a valuable experience and taught me a lot.

Outside of university, I loved my trip to Tasmania. I’ll never get over seeing native animals in the wild, such as wallabies, koalas, and spiders. I’ll especially never forget holding a koala because that was the coolest thing. However, I won’t miss getting swooped by a magpie. I was swooped by a magpie on my way to the placement and it made me feel like a real Australian!

Autumn Arel with koala

Autumn Arel fulfilling her dream of meeting and cuddling a Koala.

What are your career aspirations for the future?

When I go back home, I have one and a half years left of my degree and then I want to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. I want to work in an outpatient setting and incorporate public health preventative approach into my practice of nursing and medicine.

What is your advice for prospective international students?

Take the jump and fully immerse yourself in life in Australia. The thought of studying abroad can be scary, and I was very unsure if I wanted to come study here as it is a long way from home, but if you make the most of every opportunity, whether it’s something big or small, I think your experience is going to be amazing.