Nursing student heads to Sri Lanka to undertake placement

Zoe Ribchester on placement

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 15:01:00 BST

This summer, a University of Huddersfield Mental Health Nursing student travelled to Sri Lanka to undertake a voluntary Mental Health Placement with SLV, a graduate-led volunteering organisation, which runs psychology-focused placements in Sri Lanka and also in Bali, Indonesia. 

Here in the UK we live in one of the most multicultural societies in the world, but with this comes a great responsibility to develop an understanding of the many cultures that surround us. This is where students like Zoe Ribchester are a step ahead by taking up international opportunities in an effort to create a cultural exchange and gain unique insight into global mental health.

For today’s students, who wish to pursue a career in the mental health sector, it’s important to gain worthwhile, hands-on work experience. Not only has Zoe utilised and developed important skills in her chosen field of study but she has also developed an in depth understanding of mental health from an additional cultural perspective.

During her placement Zoe and the rest of the volunteer team planned and ran therapeutic activity sessions in psychiatric facilities for individuals living with a wide range of mental health issues. In addition to their time at the hospital, volunteers also worked at numerous schools and social initiatives for children and adults with disabilities and taught English in the local community.

Many skills are honed and developed through working and living abroad. Most obviously, not sharing a common language can be a challenge and discovering new ways to make yourself understood without the aid of verbal language requires patience, innovation and creativity. The ability to be flexible and cool under pressure and to remain composed, even when things aren’t going to plan, are all attributes any future employer or educator would value. 

University of Huddersfield student, Zoe, worked with the local community, as well as living with a Sri Lankan family. This completely immersive experience gave Zoe a unique insight into Sri Lankan culture and daily life. The training provided is also delivered by local professionals and NGOs who know the country best. Even the most experienced and knowledgeable students can benefit from this cross-cultural exchange. Learning about mental health treatment in another country only serves to enrich one’s knowledge of global mental health and is advantageous for those looking to pursue a career working with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.

During her placement Zoe lived out of her comfort zone for much of the week. The weekends, however, were a different story. Volunteers on the Mental Health Placement in Sri Lanka had her weekends free to roam the lush, tropical island and uncover its many secrets. 

“I absolutely loved my experience with SLV; the projects, people and the culture! My experiences with SLV have contributed to my development as a student mental health nurse, helping me widen my perspective on the cultural differences within practices, along with challenging my skills and helping me develop new skills, especially in the teaching projects! I was quite nervous about signing up to fly to a new place without any family or friends, but it was the best decision that I could have made!” comments Zoe.

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