Travel letter from student exchange

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1 Travel letter from student exchange Nursing student exchange in Bangkok, Thailand Name: Louise Andersen Who did you travel with, if any: Pernille Jensen Home institution (Denmark): Bornholms sundhed og sygeplejerskeskole Class number (Denmark): august 2010 Host institution/university (Thailand): UTCC & Ramathibodi School of Health Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol Univeristy Bangkok, Thailand. Hospital/Place of clinical placement (Thailand): Ramathibodi Hospital Speciality: Community Health Course Exchange period: 28 th January 25 th March

2 Before going abroad Why did you decide to study in Thailand? Why did you choose Thailand? I've always had the thought of being an exchange student, and thoughts about long-term work abroad. The exchange study would also provide a great opportunity for personal growth and independence. The exchange was a great opportunity to being abroad and study. I love to travel and a combination of this and study was an opportunity I had to take. When you live in another country, you get a completely different experience of culture and population, otherwise than you do when you travel as a tourist. It would be really exciting and special to see the difference in Asia and the Western world culture. Last but not least, it would also be incredibly exciting to see how health care systems operate in other countries than Denmark. Already a year before I went off on my study abroad, I talked to my counselor about the possibility of exchange. She found that there was opportunity for the exchange to the Scandinavian countries, Australia and Thailand, through VIA University College, Aarhus. I was never in doubt that my study should go to Thailand. Years before I went to Vietnam and I became completely fascinated by the Asian culture and people, and not least the nature and the wonderful climate. Before I left I also did thought about the great variety that may be on the health care system. I also have to admit that the exchange to Thailand would provide many opportunities for adventure in the weekends, this attracted me too. How did you prepare for your stay abroad? Economy: Travel: Immunizations: Going on exchange requires personal effort; I had to find the money to the stay. I worked a lot to make money for the stay. I searched a lot of grants from all sorts of foundations and associ- 2

3 ations. I sent up to 30 applications, I was lucky that I got money from the foundation for exchange studies from Nordea DKK 10,000. Additionally I received vaccinations, some I had already, but you must have: hepatitis A & B, tetanus+diphtheria and tuberculosis. Before I was leaving, I applied for a visa to Thailand. Budget: Vaccinations Visa Flight tickets Insurance (Gouda) Tuition fee Apartment and Language School 1500DKK 900DKK 9000DKK 2000DKK 7000DKK 8000DKK ( + Appartment in Denmark) I have spent approx DKK in Thailand (food, Travelling, Taxi, souvenirs) Experiences and outcomes Professional outcome: How did you work with learning goals? The teachers at Ramathibodi Hospital have made a detailed plan of what you have to go through and what learning goals you will achieve. Of course it is not the same as you learn if you take the module back in Denmark, it is other things and another form of learning, but learning objectives will be satisfied. Module 6 home in Denmark is about caring for patients in their own home; this was what we had in focus in Thailand too. We have learned about the health care and how home care works. We've been to patients own home, where it primarily have been patients who were transferred to palliative care, and some cases with babies. It has been really exciting to see how the ordinary Thai live. We have been at an AIDS center, different wards at the hospital and home care. We have been 3

4 to an international school where we had to do health checkup and educate teachers and parents on first aid for minor injuries. Additionally, we have been at a center for alternative medicine and immunized children. We've seen a lot variety in the health care and together with the lessons we had and the assignments we have made and delivered, then we have achieved our learning goals. How did you find the contact to supervisors/preceptors? Our preceptor has been with us for a very large part of the process, both the theoretical and when we have been outside the hospital. She has been responsible for the form and all the practical details around us. She has been very helpful and easy to contact. Unfortunately, the language barrier often have been a problem and often we walked past each other. How did you find the contact to the patients? The biggest challenge during our exchange study in Thailand was that we couldn t speak Thai. The patients whom we visited did not speak English. It has been very frustrating and all communication passed through a third person who translated between English and Thai, and again the other way. The contact with patients has not been personal, and you did not always get all the information that you could wish for. In Thailand, nurses have a high status, so if the patient receives a home visit they are deeply grateful. So even if we did not understand each other, it's easy to feel that they appreciate that we are there and they're always smiling. Cultural outcome: Your experiences regarding the culture of the health care system? 4

5 When you are a student and work and travel in Thailand it gives an entirely different insight into the culture, than you otherwise would receive as an ordinary traveler. Something that clearly shines through in the Thai culture is the relationship to the monarchy, religion and nation. Monarchy is a big part of the Thai people. There are large pictures of the king and his family on the streets and in people's houses. Religion is also big part of the identity of the Thai people and most of them are followers of Buddhism. Often you see monks on the streets and in people's homes is a small altar where there are images of Buddha. Thailand is, as people say, the land of smiles. Everyone that you meet is sweet and smiling and willing to help. It is a wonderful culture and a country one can easily feel comfortable in. Your experiences regarding the culture of health care? The family plays a big role if you become ill. It is the relatives who take care of the patient. Often, one of the relatives must quit their job to take care of the one who is sick. It's a great responsibility to the family. They give up their own lives in order to take full advantage of the sick. One of the families who made the biggest impression on me, and which symbolize the way Thai people take care of their family is a 75 year old man who takes care of his 4 family members. He has two grown up children of the age 30 and 35 years, one child is retarded, deaf, dumb and blind, the other child has Down syndrome. He takes care of everything for them while his wife has dementia and his own mother at 97 is sick. The whole family lives together and he has dedicated his life to take care of them. Many others would have run away screaming, he stays to take care of them. Nurses have a high status in Thailand and nurses wear the uniform to and from work throughout the city. They are respected among the people. They are talented, and their educa- 5

6 tion is much more structured in the natural sciences, compared to Denmark. The nurses that I've meet had a more educational role, rather than executive. They have taught the caregivers how to take care of the patient. Social outcome: How did you interact with your colleagues at the hospital and at the university? The Colleagues in homecare were very interested in teaching us, but also to learn about the Danish healthcare system. We could share experience and knowledge. Everyone did really well against us. Again, the language has sometimes caused us problems. We were 12 Danish students off to Thailand and we have had so much pleasure from each other, socially and professionally. We have been able to use each other very much. We also had contact with some Thai nursing students, and this acquaintance has been really exciting, they are going to study in Denmark, so we I am looking forward to hear about their experiences. Did you interact with the local population? I've got a great knowledge to the local people in Thailand. I have seen how their culture and their way of life are. I've seen what role religion plays in healthcare and lifestyle. It's easy to fall into conversation with the locals when you are wearing school uniform and nurse uniform. Thai people think it is exciting that we have come to their country to study, and they really want to communicate. Although they are not always good at English, they try. If you take the time to learn some small vocabulary for everyday use, you come really far and create a relation. Anything else you think other students need to know about studying in Thailand? 6

7 If you have the courage to travel, meeting new people and experience culture and health care in another country, then you should go! It's was an amazing experience, not least because I was off along with 11 other Danish nursing students from across the country. I have during my study period seen a large part of Thailand. I have been to the most beautiful beaches at the most amazing islands, including Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Koh Chang, Koh Tao (where several of the girls took a diving certificate) in the jungle in Kanchanaburi, trekking in the north of Thailand, a trip to the Phi Phi Island and Krabi together with my family who came and visited me. And not least a 4 day tour to Laos. So even if you go to school, there is plenty of time during holidays and weekends to exploring Thailand. So even though I had to say goodbye to boyfriend and girlfriends and familiar surroundings, I have not regretted it a single second. 7

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