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Lessons from a Summer Physiotherapy Internship in Sydney

Oct 17, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPA Study Abroad Alumna Interview: Ashley Whittington

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Meet Ashley Whittington, a Biology B.S. / Pre-Chiropractic major from D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. Ashley studied abroad with CAPA in Sydney during the summer of 2016 where she interned with Five Dock Physiotherapy. Below, she talks in depth about her internship and how that experience will help her in her future career, the food she tried while living in Australia and the lasting changes she's seen in herself since she decided to spend time overseas.

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CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.
ASHLEY WHITTINGTON: My Name is Ashley Whittington. I am currently a Senior (WOO HOO) in my biology BS program leading into a Doctoral Degree in chiropractics at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. I am locally born and raised, right in Elma, New York, which is less than a half hour from the city of Buffalo. I studied abroad in the summer of 2016 in Sydney, Australia, and I had the most incredible experience. I am very interested in discovering brand new things, having crazy adventures, practicing medicine and helping out anyone I possible can. I am naturally a helper! Hobbies for me have to include going outside and doing everything: hiking, adventuring, going wherever life may take me. I love taking photography (a little known secret), and I am super connected with my family. I am very bubbly as far as my personality and always willing to give advice or be a great listener when someone needs it! 

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CW: Why did you choose the CAPA program and why Sydney specifically?
AW: Well, I chose the CAPA program because that was what was offered at my school and I couldn’t say no to going anymore. My thought process behind going to Sydney was, well, when in your student career, are you ever going to be able to travel halfway across the world, and I mean, HALFWAY ACROSS THE WORLD, and do an internship? Also, I mean c’mon… Who doesn’t want to travel to AUSTRALIA and see a koala bear or a kangaroo!?

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CW: Talk about academics abroad: Which classes did you take in Sydney? How were you able to connect your experience of the city itself and your academics?
AW: I took an internship class while I was studying abroad. I also took a 6-credit internship. The class I took made me think about my internship in a completely different way, looking at how culturally different Australia was to the United States as well as challenging me to see if I could fit in with this lifestyle. I can for sure say that I completely fit in with all the Aussies. 

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CW: Tell us a bit about your internship in Sydney, your duties and accomplishments. What was a day in your life as an intern like? 
AW: My internship was in a clinic called Five Dock Physiotherapy, which is located in Five Dock, Sydney. This clinic was about a 35 minute bus ride from our location in the city, but it was amazing to see the differences between the city and more rural life.

My duties at the clinic were to help patients in a number of ways: checking them in with the receptionist, talking about how they have been doing since the last time we saw them, stretching them, massaging out problem areas as well as teaching the patients new exercises that Jason Powers, my director, came over to assist us with in areas.

My accomplishments definitely have to be becoming more culturally aware of my surroundings in Five Dock and getting to know new techniques to bring back to the States to help me as I continue on in my chiropractic degree.

My typical day consisted of getting to work around 9am and, within the first hour, coffee was essential. We saw patients consistently throughout the day and we had a lunch break whenever we could squeeze one in if one was not scheduled for that day. The time I left for the day depended on the day of the week. Mondays and Thursdays I spent from 9am-7pm there. It was a relaxed setting so that if you needed a snack or a break, you were absolutely able to do so. One cool advantage for me is that I was able to become a patient for a little while and they tested different things out on my leg since I am disabled on my knee. I miss my co-workers from there every day! I can not thank them enough for making me feel like such a part of their family for the short time I was there.

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CW: What was the food like in Sydney? Did you find any favorite dishes or restaurants? Did you try anything new or unusual that you've never had before?
AW: Sydney food was definitely… INTERESTING! Chicken schnitzel with a mushroom cream sauce on top was definitely my favorite dish by far! Their “chips” (aka french fries) are so crunchy and delicious. You have to get some. Sydney food was, in comparison to American food, more expensive. Prepare to budget when it comes to food in general, whether you are eating out or in. Personally, I cooked a lot of my own meals frequently. My roommates loved when our apartment smelled yummy from what I was making! I did get to try some shrimp and fish fries even though I am not a big seafood person, but it was super good. I wish it tasted that good in the States. TIMTAM COOKIES ARE A MUST. You have to try some TimTams! Whatever flavor, but they are just so good. Another must: GELATO. Get as much as you possibly can; you will become obsessed and it does not taste the same back in the States... TRUST ME. Kangaroo was good! Do it, try it... It sounds crazy, but my motto: you will never know unless you try it. Just try everything Take bites off each other’s plates (that’s if your friends let you. So thankful for all my friends we did that with) and OPEN yourself up to great things. 

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CW: As a Biology B.S. / Pre-Chiropractic major specifically, what would you recommend as must-see or do experiences for other students in Sydney who have similar professional interests?
AW: Honestly, being in a premedical field, we need to take a little time off from our crazy semesters and go do something “out of our box”. THIS was my “out of the box” moment. I would say do everything you possible can. Immerse yourself in the culture of Australia, go out, have fun, take a hike, be open to trying new things, go EXPLORE. It is the best thing I have ever done for myself.

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CW: Share a moment when you most felt like a Sydneysider and any tips you might have for incoming students new to a huge global city environment.
AW: OH MAN. My favorite Sydneysider moment has to be about four weeks into being there, being asked questions as if I were a local. It made me feel so comfortable. And the funny part? I COULD ANSWER THOSE QUESTIONS. Local transportation is great! Trains are amazing to take as well as the bus systems. Yes, they can be a little late, but I highly suggest downloading the transportation app on your smart phone and also syncing the Sydney maps system to your “maps” app on your smart phone. Super helpful! Also, Uber is big in Sydney and the drivers are so friendly, so if you ever can’t take an bus, call an Uber!

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CW: What do you see yourself doing when you graduate? Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations? If so, how so?
AW: Honestly, studying abroad has expanded my horizons for sure. I realized while I was gone that I wanted to help people in as many hands-on ways as possible before I become a Doctor of Chiropractics. When I came home, I called my local fire company and joined as well as started taking an EMT class this fall to help me further my education to help others as well as be a more knowledgeable health care provider. We always need volunteer firefighters and EMTs and I thought, why not do that for myself? It was the best decision I made.

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CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your Sydney" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?
AW: I happened to do a wine tour in Hunter Valley through Colorful Trips (great touring company) and that made me feel at “home”. I come from living in the country where there's wide open farm lands and barely any houses. Hunter Valley was definitely that spot for me. I was in love with how peaceful it was out that way. Also, when a group of my friends and I hiked to the Figure 8 pools, that was totally my cup of tea. Hiking, outdoors, in nature, and taking in the beautiful scenery of that day was just incredible.

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CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you?
AW: I have seen myself become more open to other people’s backgrounds, wanting to learn more about where others come from and trying to use that to better myself by finding ways of being able to connect to others. With my current job as a Resident Advisor at my college, I have already done that, but going to a completely different place such as Sydney opened my eyes to how different our world really is as well as how beautiful it is. I have become more independent and realized more about myself, like how strong I truly am. Additionally, it has taught me that it is time for me to start traveling all over the world. I am ready to go explore different places that will make me open myself up to unforgettable memories and experiences that will help me with ALL of my future endeavors.

THANK YOU CAPA STUDY ABROAD FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO! :)

Thanks Ashley!

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Topics: Interviews, Sydney, Australia