This past semester, Natalia, one of the five Northeastern University Co-ops worked with me at our W.O.R.C. site and with Randy at our Kailua clinic. She was one of the PT students that was exposed to and later immersed in Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) techniques, something exciting and new to F&L. Natalia has since returned to Boston to resume classes and continue her pursuit of her doctorate degree in Physical Therapy.
She spent her last weekend in Hawaii attending F&L’s closed course on PRI, which I wrote about in my last blog. I had just returned from my trip to Boston where I commented to everyone that “no one has heard of any student named Natalia”. She was then given the name “Supposed” by James Anderson, our course instructor.
I don’t always get to work closely with the Co-Ops as they are assigned to our various clinics, but when I do, I get very attached to them. Natalia was no different and we got to know each other well. She was a terrific student of the craft and I know she’ll become an excellent clinician. We will definitely miss her presence at the clinics and wish her the best in her future endeavors. We are so grateful to Natalia for writing about her experience working with F&L and the fun she had living on the island for six months.
My Co-Op Experience: Natalia
Upon my return to Boston, I’ve heard the same question over and over from my classmates and friends: “How was Hawaii?” This is a surprisingly difficult question for me. I usually answer with some variation on the words “spectacular”, “completely amazing”, or perhaps a succinct “epic”, but no matter what I say, the words seem lacking to describe how much the experience truly meant to me.
Living in Kailua and working at Fukuji & Lum has without a doubt been the best six months of my life to date. I got to work with such amazing, compassionate, intelligent people who provided me a real life example of what culture- and value-oriented health care is all about. I got to learn from uniquely skilled, experienced, and dedicated physical therapists who were incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge and went out of their way to give me an educational experience I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else. I got to become familiar with types of treatments not all practitioners learn even after graduation, such as PRI, Strain-Counterstrain, and NAIOMT.
Over the past six months, I have grown so much and become more confident in myself as an individual, a healthcare professional, and a future physical therapist. And of course, I got to do all this in between weekends spent exploring sheer clifftops, cascading waterfalls, colorful pillboxes, jungle forests, ancient ruins, hidden treehouses, vibrant reefs, and white-sand beaches; eating amazingly ono grinds from all around the island, from the food trucks in Haleiwa to ramen in Honolulu; and visiting unique cultural places like the city graffiti of Kaka’ako or the tranquil beauty of the Byodo-in Temple, among so many others.
Along the way, I got to forge incredible friendships with my coworkers, roommates, patients and more. Living in Hawaii taught me to open up so much more than I ever used to and showed me just how easy it is to make friends, be it with someone I met on the top of the Makapu’u lighthouse hike, in downtown Honolulu, at the beach playing volleyball, or even in the clinic. I’m so grateful that I got to share some pretty awesome island experiences with such a large variety of people. No matter where I was or how much of a stranger I felt at first, I was always welcomed and treated like ohana. From my experience, the “aloha spirit” is very much a real and tangible thing; the islands really bring people together.
One of the things I’m really glad I did was visiting Kauai to take in the views along the steep Na Pali Coast hike and from the top of Waimea Canyon. Each island is so different and offers so many unique experiences, which I didn’t realize until after I had gone to Kauai. I hope to come back to Hawaii and experience more of the adventures each island has to offer. And despite all the hikes and adventures I managed to fit in, there are still things on my Oahu bucket list I have yet to do!
As I return to classes and adjust back to life in Boston (which, right now, is far hotter and stickier than Hawaii was, unfortunately), I am constantly reminded about how lucky and blessed I was to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches, mountains, bays and waterfalls in the world, all within such close reach. I deeply treasure all of the connections and ongoing relationships I made there, and it’s hard to be so far away; the island life already seems so distant. I think warmly of the patients I helped to treat and the amazing people I worked with, and I’m trying to bring some of that aloha spirit they showed me along with me back to Boston. If I’m being honest, I wish I could still be working at Fukuji & Lum – six months seemed too short! But I know that the rest of my education lies in front of me, and the island will always be there to welcome me back. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle to listening to Kolohe Kai and Jack Johnson while studying for midterms in the library, dreaming of Lanikai beaches.
Mahalo and aloha oe to everyone in Fukuji & Lum and anyone who’s touched my life in Hawaii in someway. I hope to be back to say aloha again some day.