Words by Bridget Dix, a D'Youville College student who studied abroad in Sydney with CAPA International Education during Fall 2014.
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I studied abroad during the Fall semester of 2014 in Sydney, Australia with CAPA International Education. Those three months of my life will always be kept in my heart. I grew in ways I had only hoped I could. I made beautiful friends, fell in love, lived for moments in the sun and ocean, explored a new city, country and culture. While all of this was happening, I was also developing skills I will need in order to move forward with my education and later in my career by completing an internship with a physical therapist.
Hornsby Physio and Associates was my second home for 12 weeks. Nick Stepkovich, my supervisor, takes international and local students, therefore I had the opportunity to work with students of varying academic levels and degree programs from Europe, the US and Australia. The camaraderie I experienced among the interns enhanced my experience because I was able to learn from the more advanced students and hear about differing approaches and treatment techniques their programs had taught them.
Nick facilitated the office environment by accepting each of us as a “blank slate” and letting us show him who we are and how we can work together as a team. He would teach us his assessment techniques, muscle tests and how to use other modalities utilized in practice.
When there were few patients or lulls in the day, we would get together and practice what we learned with each other. By having this organization, I was able to learn and develop skills such as identifying types of tissue from palpation, recognizing injury and perfecting two systems of muscle testing. Nick concentrated on pelvic alignment and utilized manual therapy and neural techniques to reduce injury and pain.
As an intern, I was invited to volunteer at the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic 2014, a 111km long canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board race. Throughout the course of 24 hours, I assisted in the pre-treatment and taping, check point treatments and post-race treatments.
This day was special because I had more responsibilities with the patients than in the clinic. It was also an amazing feeling to see the change in the athlete from before to after treatment. Their shoulders and backs were extremely stiff, so it was great to be able to provide them with relief. The river was also beautiful and lined with fantastic cliffs and forest land. It was nice to see some Australia further inland.
Nick would also check in with us as a group and individually to make sure that everything was going alright by us, and he would also let us know if we needed to improve upon specific areas. We always knew where we stood, which made open communication easy. He also gave us tips on what to see and do in Sydney.
Aside from his supervisor duties, Nick is a professional who has honed his approach through vast experience in the field. He began in Sports Medicine when the field first started, and through his experiences with large sporting events and substantial numbers of injury with inefficient treatment methods, he set out to improve the field. Eventually, he became a physical therapist and when health care laws changed, he opened his own practice in an office with other privately practicing physical therapists.
Through this internship, I can now see that I am capable of a career as a physical therapist and that I can move forward with my education with more interest and determination than before. Ultimately, Sydney allowed me to work hands-on and side by side with a team. In the US, at an undergraduate level of study, there is very little opportunity for hands-on learning with patients. I am glad that I was not a wall ornament observing the supervising physical therapist do everything, not gaining tactile learning or practice.
Sydney is an enchanting city where I gained peace in my life. I was the happiest there than I have been in a long time and I was also challenged in ways that I have never before been challenged. Those memories and what I have learned about my profession and myself will stay with me always.