Sophie - University of Manchester

B Nursing / B Midwifery
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

While on my exchange to the University of Manchester, I completed my final Nursing Clinical Placement for my degree. I spent about 14hrs, three-four days a week working in the Emergency Department at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and a few days on campus itself. I found it such a wonderful opportunity to not only see a different Universities approach to training nurses but also a countries different approach and philosophy system. You'd think that because the foundations of the human body, nursing and medical care are similar world wide that the training system would be similar but boy was it different.
Firstly I had to get my head around a new health care system and vastly different staffing structure to what I am used to followed by understanding the different approach to student mentoring and they finally figure out to maintain efficiency in an incredibly busy Emergency Department. Even just the common names of medications and equipment is completely different amongst our countries so we had a number of times where the nurses and I would stare confusedly at each other trying to figure out what exactly was this 'thing' one of us had just named!
At first it was a little overwhelming not only working in a different country but then being placed in one of the most high stakes departments in a hospital, especially one that is very much a sink or swim environment and I worried whether I would be a swimmer. But it didn't take too long for me to find my feet, get to know everyone and remember all those nursing foundations which despite different names are still the same. By week 3 I was an honorary member of the team and you wouldn't have even guessed I was from somewhere half way across the world!

Personal experience

This exchange gave me so much. For me this was my first major international trip. I had never been anywhere that we required three separate planes to get to and I had never experienced jet lag. Boy was that an experience in and of itself and rather unhelpful when I arrived on New Years Eve and all I really wanted to do was go out and explore!
I faced the coldest temperatures I've ever known standing by the canals in Venice wondering how they hadn't frozen over yet and taking my socks of at night to discover my feet were blue! And yet I still managed to eat my share of gelato as fought the wind on my trek back to the hotel! Its rather a shock leaving 37 degree heat and arriving somewhere only a few days later that is -10 (I don't know how those Canadians live in -40 every winter!)
I've stood in the Cradle of Human kind in South Africa exploring the spot where they say Humanity began and where they've discovered bones from millions of years back. And I've sat in the car while a heard of Elephants walked past me with out a care and later some Rhinos decided they didn't need a pedestrian crossing!
I've trekked through Germany's Black Forrest alone with only myself to figure out what to do when there hasn't been a sign direction for a good 2 hours and google maps isn't working!
I've travelled with friends 24/7 for weeks on end and we've learned patience and resilience as we missed our trains at midnight in Florence, spent an hour wandering through the maze of Venice trying to find our hotel that really should have only taken five minutes and realised that perhaps staying in the heart of the 24hr drumming festival in Spain wasn't such a great idea.
And then I travelled alone where I didn't have that extra person to rely on. I read a quote that said when you "solo travel" you discover what you're really made of and that quite often you are stronger and more courageous than you could imagine. They couldn't have been more right!
I've got close friends from across the world that I would otherwise have never met, I've worked cases in an emergency system I never would have seen at home, I've walked through the most dangerous district in Johannesburg and survived and I've become a more confident, resilient and adventurous person because of it!

Accommodation

During my study time I lived at University Halls near the University Campus (accommodation is not on campus but within walking distance). I would recommend this to anybody going overseas. It is a true way to immerse yourself in the University life and to easily make friends with students studying in the city. Plus its nice to be able to go out and explore without having to worry about who's cooking you food when you get back.
The dining hall became almost a family gathering where we would all come back from our various days and spend a few hours chatting, venting and working up the courage to finish that next bit of study. Halls are so easy to make friends both locally and internationally and certainly enriched my experience in every way.

Budget 

The key thing to remember with the UK is that the pound conversion rate basically halves anything you have saved. The general rule is to take enough money to last a year which is about 9000 pounds (if you are really wanting to travel a lot in between semesters between home and abroad a little more would be good).
I saved enough money to last for 7 months with included 3 months of university study and 4 months of travelling through Europe and South Africa. Once you are over their everything is pretty cheap and easy, its just the initial flights over and back. So book these as early as possible for the best deal and always book the return flight so that way if you run out of money you've got a flight home at least (this was recommended to me, remember you can always change the flight).

Professional development & employability

  • An understanding of a different health care system, approach to nurse training and clinical placement
  • Working in a demographic significantly different to my own
  • Resilience, confidence, problem solving on the go, flexibility
  • Continued networks across the globe

Highlights

With an experience such as this, its a bit difficult to pick on highlight from the entire trip! I think for me greater than the places I've seen and the experiences I have had, is the people that I have met. Its truly incredible the people you meet overseas and stepping into lives completely different to your own. I have made some truly incredible friendships that I still have today and will for a life time. There is honestly nothing that can top the people that you meet and then travelling the globe with them!

Top tips

  • Travel Insurance is a must. Get one like Covermore that has 24/7 emergency medical assistance and nurses on the other end of the phone who can give you advice at a simple phone call
  • Always book your return flight home
  • Be flexible, sometimes activities and flights won't line up or you'll find a place you want to stay for longer
  • Don't be afraid to step out on your own. The things you'll discover about yourself are worth more than anything in the world
  • If you are going for the Northern Winter dress warm
  • If you are going to the UK don't bother with an Umbrella, it rains 24/7 and no one uses an umbrella they all just have a really good coat. And secondly, you can't wait for a sunny day to explore because you won't get one!
  • Enjoy every moment to the maximum and take every opportunity that comes your way, go out on a limb every once and a while and push your comfort zone to the max. The rewards are more than you could imagine.

 

Sophie - University of Manchester