Hello, I am Adriana Escarpita an occupational therapy student at the MGH Institute of Health Professions. I recently traveled abroad to Europe; I visited Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, Iceland, Estonia, and Denmark. During this time I also completed the Innovation Program (IIP). The IIP was a 5-week program in Helsinki, Finland. The purpose of the program was to develop a concept that can be implemented at a particular senior living home in Finland. The site that I was assigned to requested our group’s help in unifying the different diverse groups existing at the center. Although completing our project was important I feel like the process leading to it was the most interesting part of my experience. Our group in itself was very diverse; it was interdisciplinary and international. We learned so much from each other’s cultures, political views, and education.
We spent a large portion of our time comparing our school experiences in our own countries, our political views, and our cultural differences and similarities. I personally found it very interesting to hear about Finland’s immigration policies and attempt to integrate new immigrants into the Finnish culture. I am Mexican-American and my parents migrated to the United States many years ago, therefore, I have a soft spot for stories of immigrants and their struggles. In Finland there is a large immigrant community from Somalia. I had the opportunity to meet a group of elder Somali women and interact with them at our community site. They gave us great insight into what it is like to live in Finland as a Somali woman. From what I gathered it seemed like Finland is trying to do its job in integrating diversity into the country but of course there is resistance from nationalistic groups. It seems that Finland has an easier and shorter process to obtain residency that American but some of the same problems of integration and immigrant isolation remain.
As a daughter of immigrant parents I found it very interesting to travel throughout Europe and observe the different immigrant groups in each country. I always wonder the background story of these immigrants and I always feel a type of connection to them. I also will like to add that as I introduced myself to the many people I met during my trip most of them were not satisfied when I referred to me as an American. They were completely nice and respectful but very curious as to where I was “really” from and America was not a suffice answer. Once I explained to them I was Mexican-American they became satisfied with that answer.