My name is Nicole Anulewicz and I have just completed a five-week program in Helsinki, Finland. When I first heard about the program I was unsure if it would be suitable for me and hesitated on applying to the program. However, after some thought and consideration I had decided that I would apply to what turned out to be an amazing learning experience. The program consisted of some theory of innovation but mostly involved time working with an international team to solve a challenge posed by a community partner. The community partner in my group asked that we create a program to enhance diversity at their facility. At the end of the five weeks, my team should present the innovative idea to the facility and the rest of the International Innovation Program students.
I had worked with an interdisciplinary team multiple times, but this would be my first time working with an international team. My group consisted of a physical therapy student from the United States, an occupational therapy student from Denmark, and two Finnish students, one studying occupational therapy and the other studying social work. Each individual had many qualities and an immense amount of knowledge to bring to the team as a whole but I wondered how easy it would be to work with just a diverse group of individuals.
Quickly each member of the team took on some sort of role and the group seemed to flow flawlessly. Having each culture represented afforded the group the opportunity to hear many different perspectives. I personally found that it was interesting to see that the work ethic was the same for each culture. Each individual wanted to add in their input and contribute as much as possible. As the primary English speaker and writer I took on the role of scribe and wrote most of the paper and the power point. This was not without much assistance from my group. I found that that the Danish student in my group and I worked well in talking out our action plans out loud while I wrote down what we decided to write. The Finnish students while not feeling so comfortable writing in the actual paper took on other responsibilities that would have been impossible for the non- Finnish-speaking students. Together they conducted interviews in Finnish and translated documents from English to Finnish so that they could be used by our community partner.
One of the most interesting things about working in the international group for me personally was hearing the similarities in OT practice amongst our different cultures. We knew about similar tests and theories and were able to use OT language regardless of being in different programs thousands of miles away from each other. I remember that we specifically talking about conducting the COPM and I thought that it was great and very efficient that we had all learned this assessment. I also found it interesting to compare what we would consider an occupational profile and again, find that each of us, while reading in different languages, had something very similar to each other.
Working as a team member in an international group was a very eye-opening experience in that everyone had something different to offer. However, overall we all found that we wanted to complete a common goal and each felt similar in our method of how to accomplish this goal. I found it easy to work with my group members and would have no problem working with this group again. I enjoyed every moment of this experience and gained not only educational knowledge, but knowledge of multiple cultures and how people can relate regardless of where they come from.