Studying abroad was An Gie Leong's biggest dream – and it took her more than 9,100 miles away from home to St. Ambrose University.
"I said I would do everything to get here, and I did," she said.
During the St. Ambrose University May 12 Commencement Ceremony, Leong will be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, and less than two months later, she will start working in the orthopedic, optometry, and urology units at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Leong is an international student from Malaysia and heard about St. Ambrose from her brother who lives in Fairfield, Iowa. His employer recommended she look into SAU, and after doing some research and ‘touring' campus via the internet, she decided Ambrose offered the right nursing program and was the right fit, two things she still believes.
"I was supported throughout my education by faculty and peers," she said. "SAU gives you so many opportunities, and it comes down to whether or not you take them."
Leong believed the best way to understand the culture and community was to get involved. During her undergraduate studies, she served as a Campus Ministry coordinator; was a biology, anatomy, and physiology tutor in the Student Success Center; an International Student Ambassador; community service chair of the National Society of Leadership and Success; a student representative on the Board of Studies; a member of the SAU student chapter of Habitat for Humanity; and off-campus, she volunteered for Habitat ReStore and Humility of Mary Shelter.
Senior An Gie Leong
An Gie's field experiences were hands-on, personal, and supportive – just like her nursing education at SAU. "The strength of the SAU nursing program is the faculty and staff. They really appreciate student feedback and constantly try to find new ways to make the nursing program better. They are all willing to help you be the best nurse you can be."
Academically, Leong got to experience many aspects of nursing. During a summer 2017 internship with the Scott County Health Department, she worked with five public health nurses, each with a different specialization. She helped one offer HIV testing at a grocery store; another who gave vaccines; assisted with a county-wide health management plan; modified patient forms to be more inclusive of LGBTQ persons, and more.
"I really wanted to experience something outside of the hospital and through this internship, I realized I really like public health," she said.
Her senior preceptor experience was at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and included working in the cardiac unit. "After a week or so, I got to do a lot of what nurses really do, including talking to patients, really getting to know them. And, I got to know the staff better and they gave me so many opportunities to observe different things," she said.
Her field experiences were hands-on, personal, and supportive – just like her nursing education at SAU.
"The strength of the nursing program at St. Ambrose is the faculty and staff. They really appreciate student feedback, and they almost tailor each semester to what students tell them. They constantly try to find new ways to make the nursing program better, and they are all willing to help you be the best nurse you can be," Leong said.
"All of that played a big role in my nursing education here."
In addition, peers and faculty were open to her views and perspectives. "It made me more brave to share what I think, see, and experience. I got to share my views as an international student from Malaysia, whether it was about health care or education," she said.
I was supported throughout my education by faculty and peers. SAU gives you so many opportunities, and it comes down to whether or not you take them.
Senior An Gie Leong
In the future, Leong said she would like to serve as a preceptor to SAU nursing students and may pursue a graduate degree.
But starting May 12, she's taking a short, and well-deserved, break. With the exception of her older brother in Iowa, the rest of her family is traveling from Malaysia to see her graduate. Then, they'll take a family vacation to Disneyland in Florida. She'll return to campus for a few weeks then pack her things and move to Iowa City, launching the next phase of her more than 9,100-mile journey.
Yet, "I won't ever really leave," she said.
When you become an Ambrosian, you are an Ambrosian for life, and Leong plans to be an active alumnus and a resource for current and future students.
"I will always be connected to St. Ambrose," she added.