A Learning Adventure Down Under

Monroe nursing student travels to Australia

Story by Vanessa Ray
Photos Courtesy of Kylie Justice

When presented with opportunities some people, fearing change and the unknown, talk themselves out of it while others, unwavering in their pursuit to live a life of adventure, seize it.

Kylie Justice, a 2016 graduate of Dundee High School and current Monroe County Community College nursing student, is one of the latter.

Sitting in the pergola behind the home she shares with her parents in downtown Dundee, the 20-year-old is a vision of pure content.

Fairy lights dot the canopy and statues and signs honoring firefighters – Justice’s dad is a Lieutenant in the Dundee Fire Department – line the edges of the patio.

Justice has all the memorabilia from her recent adventure sprawled out in front of her. This adventure, which still makes Justice glow with happiness, began just a few months ago.

Earlier this year, the petite, blue-eyed blonde received an email from the International Scholar Laureate Program (ISLP) regarding their varying curriculums. According to its website, ISLP is a way for students to “gain an international perspective as well as a lifelong advantage in their chosen field of study” – in Justice’s case, that field being nursing.

“It basically said I could apply for (the program) and choose the delegation,” Justice said. “So I went with the nursing delegation.”

The program was slated to run from May 29 to June 8 and participants would travel to places like Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns. To participate, the student had to be nominated by a professor, a student organization advisor or an administrator.

Members of either the Golden Key International Honour Society or Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society, of which Justice was inducted into, are also allowed to nominate individuals.

Justice has no idea who nominated her, and all efforts to uncover the person’s identity were unsuccessful.

When Justice received the ISLP email, she figured just being nominated was an honor. She doubted she had any chance of being admitted.

“I applied thinking I wasn’t going to get in,” Justice said. “But I ended up getting a letter back from them telling me I’d been accepted into their program and I could go to Australia or South Africa.”

A long time fan of the land down under, Justice chose Australia.

Shortly after being admitted into the program, she received more good news: an email stating she could apply for a $750 scholarship.

“It was the 20 under 20 impact scholarship,’” Justice said. “So I, of course, applied and somehow ended up getting it.”

Though the $750 was a far cry from the $5,000 tuition she would have to pay, Justice was happy for the small reprieve. However, her monetary happiness was short-lived.

“Right after I confirmed my spot, I found out I would have to pay for the flight there and back,” Justice said. “Which was another $2,000.”

The $7,000 total cost left Justice second-guessing herself; she began to wonder if the spring internship was something she really wanted — or could — do. Luckily, the same spark which prompted her nomination to the program ignited her determination.

Spurred on by her parents, Rob and Cindy Justice, she decided she would find a way.

“I was able to get a bunch of donations from tons of people,” Justice said. “It ended up paying for the entire trip.”

The only thing left to conquer was Justice’s fear of traveling alone to the other side of the world.

“We were sitting at my grandma’s house and both my mom and I were talking about how we wished someone would go with me,” Justice said. “My grandma looked at me with a smile and said, ‘I’ll go!’”

So, with both the funds for tuition and her grandmother, Roberta “Bobbi” Justice, joining her, Justice boarded the plane and braced herself for the 20-hour flight.

“That was by far the worst part,” she said.

After making her way to Sydney, Justice went through an orientation and met her fellow classmates.

“There were 40 students from all over,” Justice said. “However, I was the only one from Michigan.”

May 29 through June 2 was spent in Sydney.

It took her a bit of time to get over the differences in language.

“They call shoes ‘thongs,’” Justice said with a laugh. “And swimsuits are called ‘togs.’ I also learned my name means ‘boomerang.’”

After figuring out how to ask for what she wanted by its correct name, Justice was ready for her days in Sydney. The highlight of this portion was the time spent in the maternity ward at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. She was impressed with the innovative strategies and techniques used by the hospital.

“They have complete midwife setups in the hospital,” Justice said. “They really push for natural everything – which is shown by the fact 98 percent of moms breastfeed.”

The maternity rooms also showcased progressive ideas towards the birthing process.

“They have queen-sized beds in the room, so the husband and wife can stay together,” Justice said. “It’s such a nice way to make both mom and dad comfortable. I wish that was something they did over here.”

She was also intrigued by a contraption called the Pea Pod.

“They put babies in the Pea Pod when they’re born,” Justice said. “It’s supposed to distribute the fat throughout their bodies.”

At the Institute of Academic Surgery, she was given a chance to try out a surgery simulator – a piece of equipment generally used by doctors.

“We were able to practice doing stitches on a piece of skin,” she said. “It was an amazing experience.”

Touring the Museum of Human Disease, where diseased body parts are preserved and displayed, was another stop in Sydney which stood out.

“It was cool, but at the same time, it was pretty gross,” Justice said with a hint of disgust on her face.

While Justice spent the day with her fellow classmates, her grandmother was able to tour the city.

“One of my favorite parts of the trip was hanging out at Sydney Fest in the evenings,” Bobbi said.

After Sydney, the nursing delegation was off to Brisbane.

Early June was spent in the east coast city known for its unique Queenslander architecture and subtropical climate. However, it was in this city where Justice got the experience of a lifetime with The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).

According to their website, RFDS “is one of the largest and most comprehensive aeromedical (organizations) in the world, providing extensive primary health care and 24-hour emergency service to people over an area of (3 million square miles).”

“When people in the remote parts of Australia need emergency care, they call RFDS,” Justice said. “A plane staffed with nurses and ­— depending on the severity — doctors, is sent to the area where they pick up the patient and treat them while flying to a hospital.”

Two students were given the chance to fly with the RFDS and, after winning an incubation exercise, Justice was one of them.

“It was amazing, truly one of the highlights,” Justice said, her face lighting up. “I got to see how the doctors and nurses work while in the air, plus I was able to sit up front with the pilots.”

Something else which stood out to Justice was how accepting many in Brisbane were of Australia’s Aboriginal culture.

“They have huge statues in the hospital, so the indigenous people feel comfortable and accepted,” she said. “When indigenous people come to the hospitals, they often feel like they are not accepted because they’re so different. So the hospitals are trying to push for inclusivity.”

There were also excursions in Brisbane where her grandmother could accompany her.

“Holding a Koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was amazing,” Bobbi said.

Justice was surprised at the Koala’s rough fur.

“I expected them to be soft,” she said.

Bobbi was also able to attend a panel that discussed music.

“I really enjoyed talking to the class of Australian music therapy students,” she said.

Later the students who opted for the extension – like Justice – were able to head to Cairns. It was there that she was able to live her dream of snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.

Armed with only her iPhone, a waterproof case and a red filter (given to her by one of the snorkeling instructors to counteract the green tones of the water), Justice took to the reefs and snapped photos that would impress the National Geographic.

Orange clownfish dancing among the neon-colored coral and sea life in every shade of the color wheel made their way into her photo album. Her photos of the entire trip have become one of her prized possessions.

“I love seeing Kylie’s pictures of the things she experienced during the days,” Bobbi said.

On June 8, Justice and her grandmother headed to Cairns International Airport and braced themselves for the nearly day-long flight home. She said she experienced a bit of culture shock returning home, which surprised her seeing as she was only gone for 12 days. She also discovered she had picked up her roommate’s accent.

“My roommate was from the south, and I definitely picked up her accent while I was there,” Justice said with a laugh.

All in all, Justice is eternally grateful for the opportunity she was given.

“If it wasn’t for the 20-hour plane ride, I would go again,” Justice said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Her grandmother agrees.

“I am quite proud of Kylie, how hard she worked to be able to go on this trip, and how she engaged in all the components of the experience,” Bobbi said. “It was very informative and gave us both new perspectives.”

Coral of the Great Barrier Reef

Sam the skeleton at the museum of human disease. This is where all their body parts that show the diseases were all donated, and I was not aloud to take any pictures of the disease as it was against the museum policy.

Holding a koala bear at the lone pine koala sanctuary. The name of the koala that I held was spoon. Surprisingly their fur is not soft it is more corse, but they are very cuddly