Personal Reflections of My Exchange Student Experience in Sweden

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On 20 May 2019 to 31 May 2019, I, together with 7 classmates, was honored to join the international student exchange programme held by the School of Nursing, the University of Hong Kong. In this exchange, I went to Jönköping University (JU) and attended a 2-week short course about child health.

Sweden is a country in northern Europe. Apart from the metropolises, Sweden has a lot of forests. Almost two-thirds of the total land is covered by forests. Although half of them are privately owned, there is a right of public access is Sweden. Under this right, you can freely explore the nature in Sweden. People can have camping, fishing, climbing, and hunting, etc. in the Swedish countryside. Meanwhile, this right comes responsibilities, which are not to disturb and destroy the environment. For Hong Kong people, especially we are having a rush and fast living pace, Sweden is a great place to slow down and relax. The University I was in is Jönköping University. It is located in Jönköping city, at the southern end of the second largest lake in Sweden, Vättern. Jönköping University is an international university that institutes four major schools, including School of Health and Welfare, School of Education and Communication, School of Engineering and Jönköping International Business School. Over one-fifth of the students are international students. In my exchange, the course that I participated in was organized by the School of Health and Welfare.

The course that I attended is called focusing on health and ill-health in children. Before attending the lectures and seminars, there was a briefing introduction of the course for all international students. Not only us, two students from the United States and some local students also joined the short course. During these days, we have lectures and seminars about children’s right, child abuse and children’s pain management. In the children’s right lecture, we explore the health care needs of children and family. I understood that children’s health related to the family, as they need parents to take care of them and comfort them, especially when they are ill. We also discussed the articles from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children and explored how can we provide the nursing care to children with respecting and conserving their rights during hospitalization. After this lecture, I gained some insights of managing the young patients in hospitals. In seminars about children’s right, we presented and compare the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children in multiple countries, including both Asia, Africa, North and South America.

We also evaluated the effects of these implementations on children’s health. Through presentations, I can know how different countries protect their children and compare their strategies with Hong Kong’s ones, then I can take a leaf from other countries, so that I can modify my future practice and contribute to the local healthcare system. In lectures and seminars of child abuse, besides the physical and psychological abuse, I had a chance to acknowledge different kinds of child abuse, such as honour-based violence and female genital mutilation. The lecturer also showed us some documentaries and shared his own inspiring personal experience to us, so that we can learn how to tackle and manage the situation that suspecting a child was being abused. In Hong Kong, child abuse also happens. With such information, I can early detect and help those poor children. The classes that were most beneficial to me is related to pain management. Because I did not have classes focusing on child care in Hong Kong yet, I thought the classes were very impressive. Children’s pain problems always make me struggled. In the past, I had experience of encountering young patients.

As they cannot express their feeling and condition well, it was hard to provide corresponding care and treatment. Thanks to these classes, I gained a lot of new insights regarding child pain management. Multiple pain assessment tools have been introduced through classmate’s presentations. Not only the facial pain scale, other tools like self-report scale and non-communicating children’s pain checklist (NCCPC) were also effective to assess pain level in children. For me, the most familiar one is the facial pain score, as it is most commonly used in Hong Kong. For other tools, as some of them are quite time-consuming, they are rarely used in Hong Kong, where the clinical situation is rush and busy. However, with acknowledgment of different tools, they can help me to evaluate the child’s pain under multifarious circumstances, which can allow me to provide appropriate care on time. The most surprised me was that nowadays people use new technology, not only for diagnosis or investigation but for the reduction of pain. A video that shows how virtual reality (VR) video game helps to reduce the child’s pain while drawing blood was really impressive. In Hong Kong, we most prefer pharmacological measures to relieve pain, as they are convenient and less time-consuming.

However, the overdose and side effects of analgesics are major concerns in Hong Kong healthcare system. After the acknowledgment of the VR game method, I think we can consider it in Hong Kong situation, as video game is popular worldwide, and it can also make hospitalization less boring, which benefit the child’s psychological health while they are in hospital. However, hardware and time are still the issues to be concerned, especially under the busy clinical situation in Hong Kong. Overall, the course increased my capabilities of taking care of children in hospitals, which can eventually and genuinely benefit those young patients.

Besides the study, the student life at Jönköping University is also full of variety and interest. The Student Union often organizes multifarious activities at the weekend, for instance, hiking, kayaking, and even a short Norway adventure. Unluckily, there were no events at the weekend during the period we stayed. However, we still went to the student night club to have a fun night. In JU, there is a night club called Akademien, where is open to all members of the JU’s Student Union. Students can dance with other students from all the schools in JU under a safe environment, as there have patrol security guards to ensure the safety of every student.

Therefore, it is a fantastic venue for students to drop down their studies for a while and have fun. Although we cannot join the Student Union’s activities, there was a night fair in Jonkoping city on 24-26 June. This was similar to the AIA Great European Carnival in Hong Kong. Various rides, attractions and game booths were available for citizens to spend their weekend with fun and entertainment. There were also many food stalls along the streets, so we had a taste of the Swedish local food and had a chit-chat with some locals.

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Apart from staying in Jonkoping, we also went to Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. In Stockholm, we went to different palaces and museums in order to understand the history of Sweden. The worthiest to visit is the Drottningholm Palace. It was constructed in the 17th century and is the best-preserved royal palace in Sweden. Since 1981, the palace has been the permanent residence of the Swedish’s royal family. Therefore, by visiting the palace, I can understand the development of Sweden and its royal family, as well as Europe in the past centuries. Owing to its long history, Drottningholm Palace was also the first Swedish attraction that was listed in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Not only the palace, the park in the palace also has stunning scenery. The blue sky, clouds, the green grassland and garden becomes a perfect match with the nostalgic palace, which even makes Drottningholm Palace worth to visit. Besides palaces, Nobel’s prize museum is another must-go attraction in Stockholm. The museum listed all the Nobel’s prize winners and their contributions to the world. Among all the great interventions, the first insulin in the world was most impressive for me. As a nursing student, I witnessed how insulin injection benefits and helps patients with Diabetes Mellitus (DM). Thanks to Frederick Banting and John James Rickard Macleod, who first extracted the insulin and used for treating DM, DM patients now can have a normal and healthy life with the good control of blood glucose by injecting insulin. These two places made my Stockholm tour be wonderful and meaningful.

There are several memorable moments during the outreaching activity and I got some insights from them. First of all, it was delightful to work with local Swedish students. As we had certain presentations needed to be finished, we had discussions and meetings. They were very concentrated during discussions and meetings and this is what we need to learn. In fact, in Hong Kong, when we have discussions about our projects, we can only spend about half of time to focus on the content of the project, and in the other time, we may just chat or discuss what do we have for lunch. However, those Swedish students kept figuring out how to do well in presentations, and they will off the discussion until they finished the PowerPoint for presentations. They seldom distracted themselves and this makes them become very effective. The most impressive is that we just only used 30 minutes to finish a 10 minutes discussion with 10 slides. This is what Hong Kong students need to learn, as most of them often waste time in chatting, rather than discussing, which lower their efficiency. Working with them makes me reflect my working and study style, and I may take a leaf from them and boost my efficiency in the future. Another memorable thing is that it was very difficult for us to find restaurants for dinner.

In Hong Kong, we usually have dinner at around 8 pm. However, in Sweden, most restaurants close at 7 pm. As we cannot adopt the local life well, we often missed dinner time, and most of the restaurants were closed. This reveals that Swedish people value work-life balance. The Swedish government limits the working hours at a maximum 48 hours per day. Compared to Hong Kong, there is no upper limit of working hours. This leads to the phenomenon of overtime working, which severely affects people’s health, as well as their total well-being. Under the fast living pace and rush schedule in Hong Kong, it may be hard to implement a similar policy in Sweden. However, Hong Kong government may take Sweden as a reference, and then modify according to Hong Kong’s situation, so that to improve the worker’s quality of life, and health as well.

To conclude my trip, I gained lots of personal insights, and of course, tons of knowledge about providing nursing care to children. The culture and people of Sweden also inspired me to reflect the current Hong Kong’s situation and motivate me to bring changes to Hong Kong. For all I acquired, I must give credit to the Reaching Out Award (ROA). In my opinion, participating in exchange programme is listed on the bucket list of being a university student. Nonetheless, the expenditure may not be affordable for me.

Thanks to ROA, I can receive the subsidy from the government to support my exchange, so that I can experience the local culture without any worries. Without ROA, I may need to attend more part-time job to earn my budget. Tight schedules of the part-time jobs may reduce my study hours and resting hours, and hence affect my study and general physical condition. But now, with ROA, I can both focus more on my studies and enjoy my exchange. This is the best of both worlds for me! Additionally, I will save some money for my exchange, which can increase my exposure to the world and different culture, as that I can equip with a global vision, and thus I will be able to create better outcomes in healthcare globally.

For future potential ROA recipients, I advise you do have good financial management of the Honorarium. 10,000 is not a small amount of money, saving some money can allow you to have multiple exposures to the world. In addition, within the duration of your stay, do travel to more places other than your destinations. Don’t waste the chance, do use less to experience and gain more!

Once again, thank you for the support from ROA. This experience does allow me to become a caring and competence nurse with a global vision, so that I can contribute to not only Hong Kong as a nurse, but to the world as a humanitarian.

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