After a long year of non­stop classes, Bryan Muñoz knew that he wanted to spend time at home in New Jersey. But he also wanted to work abroad.

Rather than choose between two equally appealing options, Muñoz made an easy deci­sion: He decided to do both, split­ting his six-​​month co-​​op stint into two blocks.

The fifth-​​year phys­ical therapy major worked for four months at a reha­bil­i­ta­tion clinic near his family’s home in Tea­neck, N.J., and then com­pleted a two-​​month experiential-​​learning oppor­tu­nity in Quito, Ecuador, working as a ther­a­pist for the Red Cross.

Muñoz’s co-​​op in Ecuador was funded through the Pres­i­den­tial Global Scholars Pro­gram, which gives stu­dents grants in sup­port of their inter­na­tional experiences.

In the first phase of the two-​​part co-​​op, which ran from Jan­uary through April, Muñoz worked at Excel Phys­ical Therapy in Hack­en­sack, N.J., a posi­tion he found via a North­eastern alumnus in the area who referred him to a col­league with a job opening.

I was  able to spend a lot of time working on exer­cises with patients and working as part of a team com­mitted to our patients,” Muñoz said of the co-​​op. “I learned a lot of the team aspect of phys­ical therapy there.”

He described a com­pletely dif­ferent expe­ri­ence in Quito, Ecuador, where he worked with patients in a one-​​on-​​one capacity. He spoke fluent Spanish and incor­po­rated the skills he devel­oped in class at North­eastern and on co-​​op in New Jersey, training the local ther­a­pists with cutting-​​edge tech­niques that they had never used.

In Ecuador, I had no idea what to expect,” Muñoz said. “I got there after my work in New Jersey and it was just a 180 degree turn. I knew I just had to be flex­ible and roll with the punches — and it com­pletely paid off.”

Muñoz worked with two patients on his first day but his work­load increased after his col­leagues rec­og­nized that his skill set was exactly what his patients needed.

After that expe­ri­ence, I feel so much more con­fi­dent in myself and my skills,” said Muñoz, who will grad­uate with both a bachelor’s and a doc­torate from the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences in 2014. “It made me see that I want to work with under­served com­mu­ni­ties that have a very real need for the kind of care I can provide.”

Next year Muñoz will have the chance to return to Quito. As part of a faculty-​​led experiential-​​learning oppor­tu­nity over spring break, he and his fellow phys­ical therapy stu­dents will pro­vide care to patients in under­served com­mu­ni­ties like the one he worked with through the Red Cross.