The School of Occupational Therapy offers a number of international fieldwork opportunities to occupational therapy (OT) students. As part of an exchange agreement that the School has with Charles Sturt University in Australia, four OT students had the unique opportunity to have a fieldwork experience in a different country. Two Dalhousie OT students – Mando Beciaris and Jennifer Roberts – completed their final placement in an independent living centre and inpatient ward in Canberra, Australia and two Charles Sturt OT students – Kate Connor and Stephanie Carman – completed their final placement in Halifax with mental health services at the Capital District Health Authority (CDHA).
When asked to reflect on the learning such international experiences offer, the students spoke of learning about:
- interprofessional collaboration in different contexts;
- an unfamiliar health care system;
- cultural and language differences and ways to navigate these;
- similarities and differences in occupational therapy practice internationally; and
- their own personal strengths and resourcefulness.
Although occupational therapy practice is quite similar in Canada and Australia, the experiencing a placement in another country “provided a whole new level of understanding,” which was enhanced by learning about a different culture, being independent and having the opportunity to travel.
When asked to provide advice for other students considering international fieldwork, the participants encouraged others to “take the challenge, step out of your comfort zone…take advantage of the opportunity;” and to “know your coursework and be able to apply it in a practical sense and know how to adapt the knowledge to the practice area (you) are completing, get involved in the workplace environment and culture and research the area of practice and the health care system of the country you are going to.” One participant summarized the experience by saying “the opportunity of travelling overseas allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and learn about another country’s health care system and culture. I would highly reccomend such international placements to all students!”
Compiled by: Heidi Lauckner (International Fieldwork Education Coordinator, School of Occupational Therapy), Mando Beciaris and Jennifer Roberts (Dalhousie OT graduates), Kate Connor and Stephanie Carman (Charles Sturt University OT students)