Earlier this year, adult nursing students Catherine Blyth and Peter Griffiths, went on an Erasmus exchange to Finland.
"We first heard about Erasmus during our induction week in the first year, and were both interested. Studying abroad would allow us to experience a different healthcare system and develop our communication and leadership skills.
The Erasmus scheme is available at a number of partner institutions throughout Europe. Finland was our first choice due to its reputation for excellent healthcare, plus the fact that it's a beautiful country with lots of snow - and the home of Santa!
We were based in Hämeenlinna, which is 100km north from the capital Helsinki. Our weekends were free to explore this beautiful country and immerse ourselves in the different culture. Every weekend was a new adventure - Lapland; seven towns throughout the length and breadth of Finland, as well as trips to other countries, including Estonia and Sweden.
Our clinical placement lasted seven weeks and involved patients from different stages of illness, from intubated patients on ventilators through to preventative care with healthy young babies.
We spent three weeks on a cardiology ward, two weeks in intensive care, and one week on a community placement - I was based in a maternity clinic and Peter was in a community health centre.
It was interesting to note the differences between the Finnish healthcare system and our own, and we regularly discussed how these would work being incorporated into practice back in the NHS.
Our mentors were extremely welcoming and involved us in the ward routines as much as possible. Aside from our mentors, who spoke excellent English, Finns over the age of fifty-five speak little if any English, which made communicating with the patients very interesting! Learning key words such as 'pain', 'water' and 'toilet' allowed us to increase our involvement in patient care, and learn some Finnish along the way.
One of the highlights of our time in Finland was participating in HAMK University's International Wellbeing Week.
The staff and students came from many different countries and it was great to get to know their cultures, and the differences in practice and nurse training.
Throughout the weeek, we took part in a series of acute and critical care workshops, which incorporated skills training and simulated scenarios in order to practice patient assessment and team-work. The workshops were extremely effective at increasing our confidence, communication and leadership skills - and they were a lot of fun!
Our nursing practice has benefited greatly from undertaking the Erasmus exchange. We formed new international friendships, gained experience of another healthcare system, and developed skills that will benefit us and our patients.
We'd strongly recommend it to other student nurses. We had an incredible experience, one we will never forget!