Nursing student enriches her RU academic experience with semester abroad

With adept planning and help, Kacie Grunau was able to step away from her rigorous nursing program for a semester abroad at Ireland's University of Limerick.

Grunau, a junior from Fork Union, Va., knew when she came to Radford University as freshman that she wanted to work in a semester abroad and had the credits in hand from high school honors courses that afforded her a head start. She also took anatomy and physiology courses in summer that kept her moving forward.

"I worked my butt off to get there," said Grunau, who began the grueling third year nursing regimen upon her return this fall. "Planning was so important and we made it happen. The International Education Center folks were so helpful - they helped with getting my passport, the academics and monitored my progress."

Like many travelers, Grunau waxed poetic as she reflected on her time in the Emerald Isle. "The attitude, the feel, the culture, the people, the towns . . . I was smitten with the place," she said.


RU nursing student Kacie Grunau on the banks of the River Shannon that runs through the city of Limerick.

As a future health care professional, the experience was also valuable. She was struck by the overall Irish commitment to a healthy lifestyle that she encountered in the food, eating habits and commitment to regular exercise.

"They are crazy health conscious," she said. "Here, you're considered a foodie, but there you're normal if you want to enjoy freshly made food without preservatives and ridiculously cheap vegetables and greens."

A badly sprained ankle also gave her a patient's look into the different health care system. "Their treatment of me was so profoundly different, it was so efficient and affordable."

Academically, the difference in technology was obvious. Her final exams were done in blue composition books and Grunau said she never saw a Scantron sheet once during the semester during which she took nine credit hours of general education courses.

While meeting friends from across the globe - France, Holland, Belgium, Germany and Australia, she also got to know a group of Irish students who showed her their country like no tour group could. She dined with families, visited lake houses and got off the beaten path every chance she could.

"Of course I was scared and overwhelmed at times, but like I learned from my Irish friends, 'You'll get over it,'" she said. "The experience and the confidence I gained are well worth it to me now, though."

Nov 5, 2013