Written by Erin Dunne, Athletics Media Relations Student Intern

When opportunity strikes on the court, field, or swimming pool, any student athlete knows you have to take risks for a positive outcome. Communication is essential to making these opportunities in sports yield positive outcomes, whether it is a successful game, breakaway goal, or new record.

Seniors Katie Hillman (volleyball) and Emily Market (women’s soccer) seized an opportunity to make an impact on India’s healthcare system through a summer internship program with the University of Delaware. This internship opened a new world of communication through language barriers, learning about different healthcare systems, and immersing themselves in the culture of India.

“I knew India would be on a whole different spectrum, somewhere I probably would have never gone if it weren’t for the UD study abroad program,” remarked Hillman. “It was a great way to get my clinical experience and get out of my comfort zone.”

Hillman, Market, and a group of nine other nursing students spent a month rotating through the Intensive Care Unit, the Emergency Room, the Cardiac Catheterization Lab and the Operating Room in two different Indian hospitals. They were also able to visit the Taj Mahal, ride elephants, and witness a Hindu blessing ceremony on the Ganges River.

“The girls will see all these clinical things as part of her nursing here: how to put in lines and take out line, start IV’s, and draw blood,” said Dr. Carolee Poleck, associate of the School of Nursing who ran the trip. “But this was seeing how someone does it in another country.”

Hillman calls the experience eye-opening and was amazed to see how different everything was culturally, in addition to the difference in healthcare systems.

“Just driving through the streets, anywhere we went, the poverty was eye opening. It was almost hard at some points to soak in the magnitude of the way these people lived their lives,” recalled Hillman. “It was shanty towns on the side of the road, living in cardboard boxes, no shoes, people begging everywhere; it was tough to see.”

The girls know that the trip made an impact on their own lives; but they were truly making an impact on the people of India’s lives. They spent several afternoons rallying their fellow nurses to play with the children who lived in the rural areas of the hospital, despite the 110 degree heat and pure exhaustion after a day in the hospital.

“Even though we couldn’t understand them, we were just smiling and playing games with them,” Market said. “It was a cool thing to see two cultures come together.”

“It’s important to see that. Some of them didn’t have shoes on, some of them had really rotting teeth from not having good dentition,” Poleck commented. “You’re not just seeing people in the hospital, but you’re seeing kids running barefoot through fields, bloated bellies.”

In the lunchroom one day, an Indian woman who also worked at the hospital approached Hillman and Market. Though unable to communicate with one another, this woman offered them the milk she had brought with her.

“Who knows what was in that milk, but that lady worked real hard milking her cow that morning, maybe had all of five cents to her name and shared her meal with this American,” mentioned Poleck. “Katie engaged in that interaction and it was just powerful, just beautiful to see.”

“She was like ‘here I want you to have this, like thank you so much,’” exclaimed Market. “We didn’t necessarily do that much, but she thought us being there helped. We couldn’t even understand each other but it was such a nice gesture.”

Like athletics, communication is essential for a group of hospital nurses trying to protect lives. In her role as captain, Hillman must communicate with her team to form a cohesive unit on the court, which is beneficial for her roles as player and nurse.

“Teamwork is a huge part of volleyball and nursing,” Hillman remarked. “There were a lot of situations where we were uncomfortable, we didn’t know what was going to happen, there were language barriers, it was hot, and it was sweaty.

“So putting 10 people that kind of knew each other in a situation like that definitely required teamwork and communication, which is huge in volleyball.”

Soccer requires a ton of flexibility for when plays or games do not go as planned, Market noted, which carried over into the flexible attitude required in the hospital.

“You, the patient, and the doctor, you’re like a team anyway. You have to get information from the doctor and be able to communicate it to the patient, so that they can understand it,” Market said. “You’re their advocate.”

Blue Hens head coach Bonnie Kenny also noted the importance of Hillman stepping outside of her comfort zone to travel to a third world country and immerse herself in the culture there.

“She saw a whole different element that she never would have seen had she stayed in our country,” said Kenny. “I was proud of her for choosing that.”

The trip allowed Market to embrace her role as a leader to guide her team through the fall season.

“I think it was a complete positive. When you go away somewhere, I think you come back knowing how good we have it,” remarked women's soccer head coach Scott Grzenda. “She’s a captain this year and I think she came back with a little more leadership.”

As for the athletes, the experience was one of a kind, opening new doors to learning and rounding herself out culturally.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was an eye opening, awesome experience,” exclaimed Hillman.

Market shared similar feelings and is inspired to go to other third world countries in the future.

“It really made me thankful how lucky I am,” commented Market. “I would like to go back and observe another third world country and help as best I can and learn their culture and their way of life.”

Hillman is also one of 30 candidates across the country selected for the NCAA Volleyball Class Senior Award, which recognizes well-rounded athletes for their excellence in community, classroom, character, and competition.