Recent COPH grad traveled the world with USF programs

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What’s on your bucket list?

If you’re like a lot of people, at least one dream is to travel the world. Unfortunately for most of us, though, work or school gets in the way of having the time and resources to check that one off our list.

But not so for David Arango.

The recent graduate of the USF College of Public Health (COPH) and Judy Genshaft Honors College got the opportunity to mix learning with service during his time as a student.

Arango participated in five USF-sponsored study abroad trips in six months, but it was his first trip to Japan in the summer of 2018 with COPH instructor Makut Matawal that sparked his curiosity and encouraged him to continue studying outside the country.

Arango visited Dover Castle in England as he passed through the United Kingdom
during one of his study abroad trips. (Photo courtesy of David Arango)

During the trip to Japan, Arango visited elementary schools and volunteered with the children there. He also learned about how the school system cares for the health of its students by integrating lessons on nutrition, exercise and health literacy into the curriculum.

“After this experience, I was inspired to partake in a few more trips due to the impact [the program] had on my view of the world from a public health perspective,” said Arango.

Arango, who is originally from Colombia, quite literally traveled the globe with USF. His study abroad curriculum took him across borders and oceans to Canada, Panama, Vietnam and the United Kingdom.

Arango created his own tea cloth while visiting elementary school students in Japan, a trip he says influenced him to continue his travels. (Photo courtesy of Arango)

He participated in many service-learning events centered on educating youth and school children on health topics, but there was one project in Vietnam that stood out more than the rest.

Toward the end of the trip, he was asked to conduct a needs assessment for children at an orphanage. The experience allowed him to apply everything he had learned in the classroom about needs assessments to a real-world situation, and it was especially impactful because of the vast needs of the children and the resources they lacked.

“This project allowed me to make connections to various topics I was learning in my courses, but the children in the orphanage were struggling with many things beyond what I was able to discuss with them,” said Arango.  

The children, Arango, says, were greatly impacted by a lack of health awareness and financial literacy that couldn’t be taught in one trip to their school. “This further solidified my passion for public health and making a positive impact on communities that are struggling to gain access to proper health services.”

Arango, who is currently gaining field experience before pursuing his MPH, understands the value of study abroad experiences and is extremely grateful for the opportunity and skills he gained while becoming a world traveler. Like everything in public health, he knows it takes a team to create these types of learning opportunities.

“I want to thank the COPH’s Global Citizens Project and Health Scholar program and the Judy Genshaft Honor’s College for supporting me and giving me the chance to participate in all these programs as an undergraduate student,” said Arango. “Seeing the similarities and differences [in each system] makes me want to find new alternatives for improving public health in the future, not just in the United States but around the world.”

Story by Cody Brown, USF College of Public Health