World of Possibilities

World of Possibilities

Alison Russell in Calcutta
Alison Russell in Calcutta
Alison Russell ’10 remembers exactly what she was doing when she got the big news. “I was studying for finals in the Cushwa-Leighton Library.” She checked her email and there it was—confirmation that she would be spending her summer in India working with the Missionaries of Charity founded by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “I was shocked to receive the exciting news! All I could think was, ‘I’m going to India! I’m going to India!’”

The nursing major and Presidential Scholar from Carmel, Indiana received this once in a lifetime opportunity through the University of Notre Dame’s International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP). Saint Mary’s enjoys a close relationship with Notre Dame in which students are able to take part in multiple classes, clubs, and service projects.

The experience of working in a health clinic and home for the destitute and dying left a lasting impression on Alison. “The simple acts I performed each day became sacred and holy; from passing out water, taking women to the bathroom and helping someone eat dinner to changing a dressing, sitting with a crying woman, or massaging a patient. Despite our lack of communication because of the language barrier—I spoke English and they spoke Hindi—I grew to cherish my days with these people and to love them deeply.”

She says her Saint Mary’s education prepared her for the experience. “My nursing professors taught me the science of caring within the classroom, but it was in the hospital and clinical setting that I was challenged to transfer the knowledge of nursing into compassionate care and a vocation of service.”

The summer of service had a profound effect on Alison. “Amidst the apparent sadness and despair that filled the busy streets of Calcutta, I constantly found strength and hope in the motivational volunteers, in the meek and humble Sisters who follow in Mother Teresa’s path, and in the gentle Indian strangers who quietly returned a smile on my walk home.”

While she hasn’t yet decided what field of nursing she will enter, Alison says her summer in India opened up a world of possibilities for her. “I view nursing as a vocation in which I can compassionately serve the people of Christ with the gifts I have been given. No matter where or what kind of nursing I will be doing, I can guarantee that what I learned in India and throughout my years at Saint Mary’s will follow me and guide me every step along the way.”

—Jessica Robbins '11