While on a nursing co-​​op in Argentina, Rita Car­penter met a young boy at the Hos­pital Pedro de Elizalde in Buenos Aires. She and fellow North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dent Sarah Driscoll devel­oped a bond with the child, Jere­mias, and his mother. Car­penter recalled the boy being dis­charged and returning soon after with pneu­monia. He ended up leaving the hos­pital again on the last day of Carpenter’s co-​​op.

It was that kind of expe­ri­ence — helping nurse chil­dren such as Jere­mias back to health and playing with them during their hos­pital stay — that helped Car­penter decide where she wants to take her nursing career.

I want to work with the less for­tu­nate pop­u­la­tions that don’t have the resources that they need,” says Car­penter, who worked at the hos­pital from Sep­tember through December last year.

In her expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity, Car­penter started out shad­owing the nurses, prep­ping med­ica­tions and retrieving crit­ical sup­plies at a local pharmacy.

As she grad­u­ally over­came the lan­guage bar­rier, Car­penter says she became more active in working with the patients, set­ting up IVs and giving them med­ica­tion to treat their var­ious con­di­tions. She spent more of her time in the oncology and res­pi­ra­tory unit, where many of the chil­dren suf­fered from leukemia and other can­cers. She also spent time observing a nurse who met rou­tinely with mothers of chil­dren born pre­ma­turely to keep track of their growth.

Car­penter says it was not only a pos­i­tive cul­tural expe­ri­ence, but also a valu­able pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ence working at a public hos­pital where the need was so great. While she was thou­sands of miles away from the class­rooms at North­eastern, Car­penter even received an unex­pected home­work assign­ment — the hospital’s med­ical staff asked her to give a pre­sen­ta­tion on the U.S. health-​​care system.

It was def­i­nitely a unique expe­ri­ence,” Car­penter says. “I got a lot more out of it than just nursing.”

Car­penter begins her senior year this fall in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, but she is also looking into trav­eling to Haiti this summer to vol­un­teer in the country that was rav­aged by an earth­quake in January.

Prior to her expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity in Argentina, Carpenter’s first co-​​op was as a patient-​​care assis­tant at Tufts Med­ical Center, and she is deter­mining now where her final co-​​op will be this fall.

Regard­less, she said, she will remember Jeremias.