SHAHS Students Travel Abroad to Norway to Complete Practicum

SHAHS Students Travel Abroad to Norway to Complete Practicum

Over the summer of 2019, Recreation Therapy faculty members, Candy Ashton and Angela Sardina, led a group of 11 students to Norway on a study abroad trip.

The students—who were mostly recreation therapy, with a few from gerontology and exercise science—completed their practicum while there. During the day, students worked in a care home located in a town called Stavanger, which is the equivalent of a nursing home in the U.S., and in the evenings, they resided with Norwegian families they were paired with, which helped with the cultural simulation aspect.

The trip provided students with the opportunity to learn how other cultures approach aging and long-term care services. They gained a different view on how long-term care services can be provided and were exposed culturally to different aspects of living, such as how the older population, especially those with dementia, don’t speak English like many younger Norwegians. Students had to communicate nonverbally, which helped them develop their nonverbal communication skills.

“Norway doesn’t have recreational therapy,” Ashton said, “and it gave students a different perspective on how the care of older adults is approached and what those services look like, and it gives them a good comparison on how we do things and how they do things and how to identify the best practices when they go out into their own fields.”

The way Norway structures their long-term care facilities is much different than the way they are structured in the U.S. and so it was important for the students to see that, and for them to then bring what recreation therapy could add to Norway’s model of care.

One way this was accomplished was by the use of a portable TRX that the group brought with them. The students and residents of the care home split up into team units, and the students were able to show the residents how to use it.

“That was actually something that the care home had not seen before, and the residents really enjoyed it,” Ashton said. “They found it to be personally challenging.”

Sardina said interprofessional collaboration—one of the three pillars of CHHS—was on display during their sessions with the residents. “I think it was really neat that we had exercise science, gerontology and recreation therapy students working together and sharing what they’re finding in terms of best practices overseas. In one of the groups, it was completely interprofessional, and they were able to combine their skillsets to create this TRX program that was fantastic.”

Ultimately, the students benefited the most by experiencing a different way of life, one that, despite being different, is similar in that it has strengths and weaknesses, much like the U.S. and how to learn from each other.

“It just gave them a whole different perspective,” Sardina said, “and I know many of them had mentioned they were proud of how they did, navigating the bus systems and getting to places on time, which is something they had to do since they were living in a hostel with their host families.”

In addition to their work at the care home, the group went sightseeing on the weekends, visiting places such as Pulpit Rock and Oslo, where they visited the Viking Museum, opera house and did a walking tour of the city.