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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Fernando in Costa Rica

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Fernando Figueroa ’17, a Biology major and a minor in Economics/Chemistry currently studying abroad in Costa Rica.

Fernando Figueroa

Costa Rica

Patronato Nacional de Rehabilitación

Major: Biology Minors: Economics & Chemistry


Life at my research project site

I am currently working on a research project that combines the fields of public health, psychology, and physical therapy. I am determining the prevalence of depression and its risk factors in men and women at PANARE. This institution was originally for children with polio. Since polio is no longer a problem in Costa Rica the institution provides the services of physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, and nursing for both outpatients and inpatients. I spend most of my time in the physical therapy department; therefore I have been learning a lot about it. The biology and chemistry classes I have taken have helped me understand what is going on inside the body, but the anatomy and physiology class I took in HS has been the most helpful. Doing this research project/internship/volunteer project has allowed me to observe what my future could look like. I have spent some time with doctors before, but I was always interested in PT so it is nice to be working with a physical therapist. My time spent here has begun to push me towards PT school.

My project involves interviewing people to characterize them socio-demographically and to apply the Hamilton Depression Scale. Doing these interviews has allowed me to get better at communicating with patients. It was hard at the beginning, but with practice it has gotten easier. The scale has some tough questions, which have been the hardest to ask but I have gotten better at it. I chose a project with interviews because I wanted direct contact with the patients. Since Spanish is my first language, there is no language barrier and I have been able to learn a lot about the patients.

This experience has been a bit similar to the one I had at the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in San Antonio, TX about two years ago. Even though I was not interviewing people, I was helping out the physical therapist. I spent 60 hours there and learned about PT. My experience there has helped me immensely because I know what to expect. One thing that is different is that I am learning the terminology in Spanish. I don’t think I will continue this research when I get back on campus, but I would not be opposed to come back and do a follow up study here.

Thanks to ACM and PANARE I have been able to learn about PT and about myself. This project will hopefully help this institution as I plan to give them the breakdown of what I found. I hope this will help future patients and other future studies to come. Depression is a serious disorder that can haunt anyone and everyone. By PANARE knowing their population better, other studies can be of more help. A special thanks to Dr. George L. Speros for helping me to make this abroad trip affordable.