To Finland and back for intrepid Occupational Therapy students and their European peers

News Page 28th March 2019

Recently, Occupational Therapy students travelled with their lecturer Mike Adams* to join a group of international peers who went to experience the profession in Jyvaskyla, Finland.

As part of this exchange, some of their European peers – accompanied by their Programme Coordinator in Occupational Therapy, Jaana Ritsilä – visited Northampton to get a taste of education and learning at Waterside and how occupational therapy ‘works’ in the UK, with a programme led by Senior Lecturer Cath Kenny.

The Press Office caught up with some of them just before they jetted back home and also spoke with British student Brodie Smart, who is in the second year of her studies at University of Northampton.


Brodie, a native Northamptonian said: “My main reason for going to Finland was to get a feel for paediatric and child development occupational therapy in Finland, as these are areas I want to work in. But I learned so much more than just that.

“We spent five days in Finland and it really was a totally different environment, from the snow-storm when we landed to the fact Finnish students do things like knitting during their lectures!

“The exchange combined fun elements with learning about different approaches to OT. So, we used dance sessions to see how our bodies can be used to express ourselves and had a go at making traditional Finnish pancakes – a bit like ours but baked in an oven – as we explored how to make adaptations so people can cook for themselves. Really interesting stuff. And the pancakes were delicious!

“I’m really enjoying studying at Northampton and going to Finland intensified how much I am getting out of the course here. The exchange has enhanced my knowledge and given me so many ideas to take with me when I graduate.

“Occupational therapy is all about seeing the bigger picture when someone isn’t able to do the every-day things they enjoy and working with them to make sure they retain their independence. Combining studying at Northampton and a visit to Finland has really helped broaden my horizons.”

Melle is a student from Belgium who has been studying in Finland for the past 3 months: “Occupational therapy is so interesting because you can mean so much to a person’s life by sharing your skills and knowledge.

“In the UK, occupational therapy has more responsibility and control than those in Belgium. It was nice to see how much they do here and how many things they can do for people.

“Whilst I was here, I really enjoyed the session about Child and Adolescent Mental Health and how we can work with children and young people.”

Reeta from Jyvaskyla gained much from her visit to Northampton, including visiting a local choir established by a Northampton occupational therapy graduate: “There were some things I saw that I haven’t seen in Finland. Such as how occupational therapists in the UK work with adapted cars, supporting people with disabilities gain or maintain their driver’s licence. ‘Singing for Breathing’ was an amazing concept we don’t have back home.”

Tutta, who comes from Helsinki, felt that the trip to Northampton confirmed why she wants to works in the profession: “I’m changing career from being a Human Resources specialist to occupational therapy and the reasoning is the variety of the work, making a difference and doing something meaningful for myself too.”

Anna, from Tampere City, added: “Finding out about the other places where occupational therapists can work and the places where OT’s can volunteer gave me new ideas about what an occupational therapist can do and where to work. My self-confidence increased thanks to visiting the OT team in Northampton and I improved my English speaking. As my friend Lina commented, it has been a language bath!”

And finally, a word from Mike Adams: “Visiting JAMK University was an excellent opportunity for me to see Occupational Therapy in a different country, and to experience some new perspectives on teaching.

“Being in my first year of teaching this has come at the perfect time to broaden my thinking around the way we teach, whilst also see the commonalities that connect us within the Occupational Therapy family across the world.

“Finland was in the middle of a fantastic white winter, and I was fascinated to learn more about the Finnish way of life, including how life there embraces the ever-present snow at this time of year.  The school children are given time outside of the classroom at regular intervals throughout the day to enjoy outdoor play!

“Within my week at JAMK I had the opportunity to teach students from Finland, the UK, the Netherlands, Kosovo and Belgium.  I was introduced to a range of therapy opportunities, including a high-spec adapted training house, green care, sensory play, and dance as a therapy. I was particularly impressed how the OT teaching team embrace the natural world, encouraging the students to broaden their thinking around the person, occupation and environment relationship.

“It was a wonderful experience, and from both a therapy and an education perspective am convinced our relationships with international partners greatly enhance our teaching quality and enrich the experience of our students.”

Find out more about Occupational Therapy at University of Northampton, whether through the full-time route or full-time Extended route.

*Although the students self-funded their trip, Mike’s visit was supported by a Staff Training grant from the University’s Erasmus+ fund.

Erasmus+ is a European Commission programme that provides funding for UK higher education students, recent graduates and staff to study, gain work experience, teach or train abroad.

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