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Endicott student Camilla RisicatoInternational student Camilla Risicato represents bravery in the face of the COVID-19 public health crisis. While many of us Americans are currently adhering to stay-at-home orders, some working from the socially-safe distance of our in-home offices, couches, and kitchen tables, Italian native and Endicott College senior Risicato is tackling the pandemic head-on as a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT) for the Beauport Ambulance Service, Inc.

Choosing an Education in America

Risicato began her American education at Marblehead High School as an exchange student in 2015, and she loved the experience so much that she decided to stay.

She says, “I’m an only child, so when I decided to stay and continue studies here it shocked my parents a bit, but they wanted me to do what makes me happy.”

Initially, she applied to Salem State University’s pre-med program and after two years there, she transferred to Endicott to study biology/biotechnology in her junior year. During her collegiate education, she completed an internship in a primary care office, but she realized that she wanted a more hands-on educational experience.

She says, “When you intern at the primary care office, you shadow physicians because obviously you are not a certified doctor…it’s mostly just observing and asking lots of questions as opposed to being personally active.” She has always wanted to focus on emergency medical care, and therefore she pursued and achieved her EMT certification in 2019.

“After I got my EMT certification, I applied to do my internship at Beauport Ambulance Service. It was a great experience. I worked with very welcoming people,” says Risicato.

After that internship ended and the coronavirus outbreak began, Risicato made the incredible decision to take on a volunteer position with Beauport Ambulance Service on top of her senior course load. Typically, that opportunity would not be possible, but our Office of International Education assisted with the process and Beauport Ambulance Service made an exception.

The Coronavirus & Family Overseas

When the coronavirus first became a major problem in Italy, Risicato immediately considered going home to help her family, however, she eventually decided against it as it may be impossible for her to return to the U.S.

Risicato says, “Because the situation was worse a few months ago in Italy and we were going to finish the semester online, I thought about going home and helping out on the ambulance. Obviously, I’m not a doctor; I’m not a nurse; but if I can help a little, I will.” Multiple factors including finishing the semester, immigration requirements for optional practical training, and the travel ban, led her to choose to stay in the U.S. rather than returning to Italy to help there. Plus, she says, “…I love working with Beauport Ambulance Service, so I stayed here instead.”

In the beginning, she felt useless and worried about her family, but these days she is calm because the situation is improving over there and she is now able to help her community here.

A Day in the Life

The life of an EMT is incredibly varied. The shifts change a lot, and some are quite long. Risicato says, “The days are different. Last semester I was doing between 50, 60, sometimes 70 hours a week with 48-hour shifts and sometimes 24-hour shifts. These days, I’m working mostly 24-hour shifts.”

Each day does have some constants though. She says, “You come to work in your uniform and start by going through the checklist of the equipment and medications that are required for emergencies and transports, and sometimes you have a list of prescheduled transports. Other times you wait for the emergency calls to come in.”

Beauport Ambulance Service provides two types of care—transports between hospitals and emergency calls—so in addition to the shift changes, Risicato has to be prepared for different types of situations and paces. She says, “Some days it is very, very busy, call after call, and other times there are no calls for three hours, and that’s when I study and get my homework done.”

When she works long shifts, Risicato says that it can be hard to meal prep, so she ends up grabbing something on the road in between calls. There’s a lot of travel involved as they serve a large area including Gloucester, Essex, Rockport, Hamilton, Beverly, and even Boston. Mostly, she just rolls with it, but she does have one absolute—“I’m Italian, so I can’t live without coffee!”

Stress Management

One would think that completing senior-level courses while working in emergency services would be stressful, and yes, it can be, but Risicato has strategies to maintain her balance.

“At first, I was working too many hours. Managing my time correctly is the most stressful part for me. Last semester, there was a point where I was working 70 hours, I couldn’t focus too much on school and I was falling behind. I had a ton of dirty laundry and I felt guilty for sleeping. I think that’s a checkpoint for people. When you get to the point when you don’t even have the time to do laundry, that’s when you need to stop and find a balance. You need to balance work, personal life, taking care of yourself, your family, and friends. I was feeling bad for sleeping because I felt that I should be studying, so I decreased my hours at work to recoup. These days, I make sure to find one day a week to do nothing. I eat whatever I want and I watch whatever I want on Netflix.”

That choice lies directly in Risicato’s belief that to uphold balance, you have to say “no” sometimes. She says, “Don’t be a people pleaser. You have to be courageous and respectful of yourself. You need to know your limits so that you can do better work.”

A Professional’s Point of View

Endicott was founded in experiential learning, which means that students who attend are fully prepared for the world through three required internships. This unique formula builds very adult students. That is why we are not surprised by Risicato’s point of view on President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D.'s decision to move toward online learning and postpone the in-person 2020 Commencement. Endicott will still hold a virtual conferral of degrees as graduates pursue employment opportunities or continuing education.

She says, “I wasn’t disappointed by the president’s decision. It was the best solution. I know some people were sad when they heard that we weren’t having Commencement in May, but I know that it’s not canceled, and it makes me feel better. These are uncertain times.”

Advice to Other Gulls

Risicato feels that the most important part of finding a major, internship, or career that you match with is about finding out what you like and what you don’t like through direct experience. She says, “I knew that I didn’t like lab work, and that I wasn’t going to intern in a laboratory facility. The more experience you get, the better off you will be. Some might find that kind of experience scary, but you can’t be afraid of challenges—even if you’re scared, dive right in.”

She continues, “If it’s not challenging, you’re not learning. For instance, for the past five years I’ve been here and English is not my first language, but I keep trying and I don’t fear the challenges I face.”

Risicato’s Future

After she completes her senior year, Risicato intends to continue her EMT career and move toward becoming a physician assistant or a doctor here in America. She hopes that one day her family will move here to join her.

One thing is for sure—she’s one brave, humble woman. She says, “I don’t feel brave. I feel grateful that I have the ability to help out and that the Office of International Education at Endicott and Beauport allowed me to do so.”