A week-long exchange is easy to arrange for a student with a family
In the spring of 2019, I was offered a wonderful opportunity to attend a one-week international exchange in Barcelona. The purpose was to complete one of my teacher trainings at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya. I was excited and extremely insecure at the same time. Are my English skills enough to teach nursing? I have never been particularly good in English and my skills so far have mainly been in everyday conversation. Teaching in English here in Finland is something I dream of, so something had to be done about it. I decided to take the opportunity because I wanted to challenge myself and jump into an unknown experience. The decision was also influenced by allowing myself to be insecure and possibly even fail. In addition, a week-long exchange seemed like a realistic option for a mother of two as compared to a full semester.
Being in a discomfort zone is learning at its best
The comfort zone is the area in life where you do exactly what you have always done. It feels safe and comfortable because the area where you are is familiar. Instead, everything new and unfamiliar is often outside the comfort zone, and everything you encounter there seems more challenging, possibly even scary. If you want to get ahead in life, you often have to do things outside of your comfort zone. International exchange offers such an opportunity because it is a step into the unknown where you can face new challenges and wonderfully learn from the ups and downs.
Going international is worth it
There are many reasons to go international. Anyone who dares to study abroad and leaves their comfort zone will benefit many times from valuable experience. Internationalization not only develops language skills, but also broadens the view and opens new perspectives on earlier ways of thinking. Important skills for later professional life are also developing, such as communication and collaboration skills, intercultural competences, tolerance and adaptability. Being in a foreign environment for an extended period may feel distressing. However, most universities do a lot for the well-being of their international students. I have had a positive experience myself and felt very welcomed, because the target organization and my supervisor had a lot of experience and motivation to work with international students. International exchanges increase academic and professional opportunities, as students studying abroad meet different people, including lecturers, researchers and other students. All these contacts can be useful for further professional development. Furthermore, many employers value international experience because of the personal development it brings.
Is one week enough for an international exchange?
Not alone, I guess. Once going abroad, no matter how long the exchange is, it will make it easier for you to do it again. My language skills improved, and my self-confidence increased as a result of only week exchange. My internationalization will not be limited to my studies but will continue after graduation. When I graduate in the teaching profession, I am seeking for international teacher exchange on a regular basis. And as my life situation changes it will be possible for me in the future to go abroad for a longer period. The international contacts you make during your studies can prove very useful after graduation. Internationalization is an opportunity for academic education, and I think that is also an objective.
MW, MNSc student
University of Turku, Department of Nursing Science