Recently the Study Abroad service moved in with us at Careers, and as we’ll be working more closely with them from now on, we wanted to find out more about what they offer (and share it with you of course!). So we’ve asked Ghina Ramadhan, a Pharmacy graduate who is currently working as an graduate intern with Study Abroad to talk about her experiences of the programme…
Where did you go to study abroad?
In the summer of 2014, I went on an Erasmus Exchange programme to Kuopio, a small town in Finland. It has a population of just over 100 000. The town is called ‘The Land of Lakes’ for a reason. Everywhere you go a lake is in sight and during the summer heat, people will freely jump in for a swim. Cycling is a popular means for transportation and bike routes were safe and comfortable. When I returned to the UK, I bought my own bike and ride my bike everywhere!
Why did you choose to go there?
When I was given my study abroad options, I had my mind set on going to a place where I would be presented with the most culture shock. There were a variety of European countries on my list, ranging from Spain, Italy, Germany and France, amongst many others. One country grabbed my attention instantly because I did not know much about it. I don’t have any friends from the country, nor have I heard of anyone who has been there. The city of Kuopio was going to be a completely new venture for me. I was extremely excited to explore this foreign land.
What did you do whilst you were there?
While I was in Kuopio, the University of Eastern Finland hosted me. I was lucky enough to participate and assist with a research project on the development of transdermal patches (similar to nicotine patches). My supervisor was kind, patient and supportive. The only lab experience I had was from high school and it was hardly comparable to a research standard lab that contains lots of big, expensive equipment. I was even lucky enough to use their brand new electron microscope to look at the surface of my films.
Was it easy to integrate with a different way of life?
The first shock I experienced was ‘The Midnight Sun’. It never registered in my mind that Finland has longer day times in the summer. There were even some days where the sun didn’t set. I am a light sleeper and the sunlight keeps me awake, so my first week was tough as I didn’t even have curtains! Partying was strange too, as nights out are not the same under the sun! It was all just very strange. I was warned that connecting with the Finns would be somewhat challenging as it is in their culture to be quite reserved compared to the overly friendly people of Yorkshire (who often shocks incoming exchange students by calling them their “love”). So be prepared to not get a reply when you greet someone you don’t know when walking to the supermarket. However, from my experience, it wasn’t too bad. Once you get to know them, the Finns are the friendliest, most welcoming people you’ve ever meet. The sauna culture is another of my favourite. To go to the sauna with your friends and family is a common thing to do and because it was a very potent way of de-stressing, it doesn’t surprise me that there is one sauna for every two people in the country. There are some basic rules to be aware of. No eating and drinking is allowed in the sauna and if you speak you should not discuss your job, title or religion.
What do you believe are the most important employability skills you gained?
- Understanding cultural customs
- Overcoming communication barriers such as language
- I have gained large network of international pharmacy friends
- Most importantly, confidence with dealing with new situation and variety of people