In early 1952, three nursing students from the University of Rochester were selected for an overseas trip to assist Europe with its massive post-war rehabilitation. Sponsored by the National Student Association, a multinational team of volunteers was sent to a work camp in England, where they lived in tents and performed farm duties, such as picking peas, for a small stipend. At the conclusion of their three-week tour of duty, the students were free to spend the rest of the summer exploring the continent on their own.
The modest work assignment was the start of a short-lived educational travel program in what was then the Department of Nursing at the University of Rochester. Over a six-year period (1952-57), nearly six dozen second- and third-year nursing students had the opportunity to visit England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, and several other European countries. According to papers in the Eleanor Hall collection in Miner Library, the program was aimed at stimulating and enriching the educational experience for students while improving international relations and understanding, and laying the groundwork for the possibility of a student exchange program.
Students were assigned to work camps but in 1954 a nursing tour was arranged. That summer, 15 University of Rochester students spent four weeks working at a general hospital at The Hague before embarking on their own individual four- week tours of Europe.
“We had come to The Hague not only to observe nursing care but to give it to those who were sick,” wrote Evelyn Lutz ’55N and Marie Johnson ’55N in a 1956 article about the trip published in the American Journal of Nursing. “The people of The Hague opened their homes to us, and we spent many happy hours with Dutch families.”
Students were divided between multiple hospitals across Great Britain for the next two summers before returning to The Hague in 1957. The 1955 trip, with hospitals selected by the British Student Union and student representatives serving as hosts in each country, was considered the most successful of the tours.
“We left on June 1, 1955 to visit various hospitals for several weeks. Patricia Wood and I were assigned to learn and assist with patient care at St. James Hospital in Tooting Bec, London,” said Carol Vogt Nichols ’56N. “Other members of our group were assigned to various hospitals. The rest of the summer was a marvelous tour of Europe, returning to Rochester on Sept. 7, 1955. What a summer that was!”
The experience abroad had a lasting impact on many of the students who were fortunate enough to participate.
“When we arrived in a country, we were met by a student from that country (mostly men). They led sight-seeing tours and social outings. We could still see
the remains of some WWII bombed-out buildings,” recalled Mary Ann Donnelly Daley ’56N, who was also part of the 1955 excursion. “We had a great deal of fun and learned a lot about Europe, life, responsibility, and the importance of friendship!”
“We bade farewell to our new friends and were thankful for the knowledge of Dutch customs and culture we had gained, the different techniques that we had seen used, and the memory of many fascinating experiences we had had with the people of The Hague,” wrote Lutz and Johnson. “Our friendships will never fade; it will be kept bright by pens across the sea.”
European travel ephemera courtesy of Evelyn Lutz ’55N.