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Interview with Sarah Davies, Christopher Britton and Nathalie Greenwell

We are studying Occupational Therapy (OT) at the Teesside University in Middlesbrough in England in the master class. It’s a two year program and we are in the final year now.

Nathalie Greenwell, MSc Occupational Therapy, Teesside University (UK)
Christopher Britton, MSc Occupational Therapy, Teesside University (UK)
Sarah Davies, MSc Occupational Therapy, Teesside University (UK)

Why did you participate at the International Winter School?

Christopher: For me it was probably the only chance to study abroad during my degree and I wanted to compare occupational therapy as a student in England and compare it to Switzerland and Germany and the other countries here in the Winter School. So I felt it could teach me a lot and add a lot to my development as an OT student.

Nathalie: I think it’s just such a once in a lifetime experience. We’ll never get a chance to network, experience all the guest lectures, getting to see Switzerland as well, it’s such a beautiful place. I think seeing how occupational therapy is viewed internationally as well as from the different countries: In Switzerland they also have a health insurance. But it’s so worlds apart even though it’s the same thing.

Sarah: I took the chance to see occupational therapy in a different country. I have never been to Switzerland and I’m really interested in travelling.

Is there something particular that you like at this Winter School so far? What was the most exciting thing?

Sarah: It is really nice to mix with students form all different countries, everyone is very welcoming. There are lots of chances to participate in group work. This is nice to get to know people.
I and another student live with Swiss students. It is a nice way to get to know the country, rather than to stay in a hotel. I had a bit of time to look around Winterthur and we have been to the Rheinfall.

Nathalie: I think it’s all really good. I think just to get to talk to the other students here and their perspectives about things and finding out how… and even the health system is so different. On the first day we had presentations about our university for the rest of the group and there is a girl here from Turkey and she said that the people that graduated in the year before her are the first occupational therapists in Turkey, there are 29 now. I just thought that’s so amazing, things like that, hearing about all the different countries. It was a really good experience.

Christopher: Well, we get to work in groups quite a lot, which is good because the groups are mixed, so there are English students, German students, Swiss, so it’s a good mix of countries that are represented in the groups. So it means that we are able to discuss a lot of different topics and compare again what’s similar and what’s different. But also the lectures we have had, the people that have been speaking to us come from a wide range of backgrounds – so different professions, some from research some who are occupational therapists, some who are more from science – so we get a lot of different perspectives as well as people from different countries.

How is studying at your university. Is it similar or different to here? What is different?

Christopher: The similarities are a lot of what you do on a day to day basis. The main difference is really… one of them has to do with insurance and how you get occupational therapy in England, there is the National Health Service, NHS, and so insurance isn’t really a big part of it. That changes a lot how your clients come to you, so you have to think a lot and justify occupational therapy as well.

Another similarity is the need to promote occupational therapy in the media and make sure that more people know about it. But really the core concepts and the things that occupational therapy is about is the same in the different countries which is good.

Sarah: Everything here is very modern, new and very well equipped. The occupational therapy institute has much more resources than ours. But there are a lot of similarities as well. We are taught in a similar way with lectures and group work. We have a similar curriculum. A lot of occupational therapy theory is written in English. So we know the same books. In England, Occupational Therapy is a small profession too, but it is well established in health and social care.

Nathalie: A big difference is they have a chance to woodwork, sawing and ceramics and all this. We don’t get to do that. They have a lot more choice in the extracurricular activities I think, which is good. It helps to develop their skills which we don’t have a chance to develop. But I suppose it’s different ways of working. We do a lot of academic work at the masters level.

How do like Winterthur as a city? Is there something you like in particular?

Nathalie: I’m couchsurfing in Bassersdorf and we went to the Rheinfall on Monday morning that was amazing, was so beautiful, really cool. Tomorrow afternoon we have the student-led activities and we’re going to Zurich because I think we don’t get an opportunity to do that before we go home. That’s going to be exciting.

Sarah: Winterthur is very pretty, the buildings are lovely. I like the shooters on the windows in different colours. We don’t have this.

Christopher: I’m staying with a student. I like it very much. Today I’ve had the first proper look around Winterthur because the timetable is quite busy, so I’ve been trying to find some spare time. But it’s really nice. And tomorrow we are going on a trip into Zurich. It’s important for me to come here and see as much as I can of the place and not leave without seeing any of it. It’s really nice, everybody is really friendly, the shops are clean, it’s pretty and clean.

What do take home with you from this Winter School? Inspiration, ideas, friendships …?

Sarah: We learned about professional identity of occupational therapy. We thought about what OT is and how we can publish it. A lot of people don’t know OT. We had creative ideas how we can promote it and bring it to other people.
It was a good opportunity to network with students from other universities. We have to report back when we go home and share our experience with the students who stayed at home. We are three of my class.

Christopher: Yeah, definitely it is inspirational because you meet people from different countries who share the same passion as you. I definitely go back to my University and feeling the need there is a need to promote occupational therapy more. Today we had a lecture about the media and occupational therapy and how it is not really in the media very much. But that’s up to us as occupational therapists to spread the word, because otherwise if we don’t do that we are not really supporting that what we do is important. So we need to kind of sell it a bit more. That’s definitely something I take home with me so far.

Nathalie: Not yet, but I think it’s because it’s right at the beginning. Once I have time to reflect on the whole week and the school as a whole I probably find tons of things that I have seen every day and that I think that are really relevant but it really has to build up for me. I’m a reflector.