The Diary of a (Mature) Student Learning Disability Nurse Abroad: Week 2.

Well, it’s ‘blog-day’ again, and I really can’t believe just how quickly the days are flying by. I will shortly be starting my third week in practice, and although I am missing people back home, I am making the most out of every second, and I am focused on squeezing every last drop out of my time in this wonderful country.

Before I reflect on the week, I do need to just say a little bit about how welcoming the Lehtimaen Opisto has been as a placement, and how welcome the students and staff have made me feel during my first two weeks. I have made a lot of friends in a very short space of time, and it has really helped me to settle down and to find my feet. It has reinforced for me the knowledge that we are all vulnerable and need a little support at times, even if it is just a friendly smile, a word of encouragement or just the feeling of being ‘included’. Although this doesn’t sound like a lot, it has been so important to me, and it has served as the perfect reminder as to why we should never forget the little things; as it’s those little things that really help us all to connect.


Monday 18th March.

Today has been all about ‘greencare and how we need to connect with nature as well as people. Basically, the approach utilises nature and animals to enhance the quality of life and well-being of people, especially people with complex needs, mental health conditions, autism, and learning disabilities. The approach is used as a preventative measure, and it aims to support both physical and mental health by promoting relaxation and decreasing stress. Several methods are used in this approach – animal assisted therapy and activities; nature-assisted methods; and horticultural therapy. All methods are used at the Opisto, and the fact that 65% of Finland’s total land area is covered in forest helps somewhat in making nature accessible. Horse therapy, animal therapy, care-farming, and horticultural gardening are all activities that are available to the students.

I spent the morning enjoying a horse therapy session with one of the students. He spent time with one of the horses and was obviously enjoying touching and stroking the horse’s mane and the close physical proximity. We then went on a walk outside through the snow and by the trees – it was so peaceful. I had spent the previous week with this student and the calming effect that the session had delivered was plainly obvious. I’m not saying that it would work with everyone, but for some people, I really can see the benefits of this approach.


Tuesday 19th March.

Today has been another interesting day and I have assisted students in predominantly academic activities.

First off, we had Finnish history and we celebrated the ‘flag day’ of Minna Canth who was a famous Finnish writer, social activist, and women’s rights advocate. She was the first woman to receive her own flag day back in 2007, and the Finnish flag is now flown ever year on March 19th to celebrate her life and her work.

Secondly, we had English, and this proved to be quite an experience for me. Before I say any more, I would like to point out that most of the students at the Opisto speak excellent English which is a real credit to the teaching staff who deliver the sessions.

The session started with me being introduced to the group, and people asking me questions about where I lived, what my hobbies were, what I liked about Finland, and general questions about life in England (I am really pleased that at least eight Finnish children now know that West Bromwich Albion are the greatest football team in England!). I really enjoyed this, and the students did too – it was a really nice way to start the session.

The main session started soon after and it really made me reflect upon The United Kingdom and what a complicated nation we must appear to be to those looking in. The introduction to the exercise was a music video of Elton John singing ‘Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word’!



It was all quite poignant and I was just sitting there, listening and watching, wondering where it was all going, and then the tutor explained. Apparently, in Finland, sorry is quite a difficult word to say  (I find ‘pyydan vilpittomasti anteeksi’ much more challenging’), and you only really need to apologise if you have done something really bad.

The lesson went on to examine the many reasons why you may have to apologise in The UK, and the many different ways that you may have to approach misdemeanours such as – walking on somebody’s grass, accidentally jumping a queue, or hitting somebody on the head with a football. It really did make me realise what a nation of complainers we all are – and I admit, it made me smile; in fact I haven’t stopped smiling about it yet. In Finland, the word ‘oops’ will normally suffice for minor crimes such as ‘prohibited grass walking’ – I am going to try the ‘oops’ approach when I get home as a small social experiment 😁


Wednesday 20th March.

Today was a big day at the Opisto as Annika Saarikko, the Finnish Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services was visiting. This meant a lot of excitement, and in between lessons and activities there were rehearsals and practice sessions for a show that the students were performing in her honour. Although I didn’t get to see the show, I managed to spend time during the morning watching the rehearsals and sharing in the excitement – they really are a very talented bunch!

After the show, she was given a guided tour of the Opisto and she looked very impressed. The place is very unique, and not just from my perspective as an English nursing student, but the Opisto is also unique in Finland and the only place of its kind nationally. I really can’t understand why there are not more places like it.


Thursday 21st March

I had a well-earned day off which I started with a spectacular lie-in until 0730! I caught up on some writing (blogging for Student Nursing Times and WeLDNurses) which I did in front of the fire with a nice mug of hot chocolate.


I then spent the afternoon exploring the local woods and putting those ‘greencare’ principles in to practice. I spent two hours following animal prints in the snow until I gave up and followed my own footprints home to safety!


Friday 22nd March


It was a busy day today as there is a little bit of flu doing the rounds and we are a member of staff down. We all pull together though and work a little harder to get everyone ready for the day ahead. Once again the day flies by, and I am involved in lessons that focus on motor-skills, arts and crafts and independent living. I’m pleased to say that I am learning lots in the lessons myself, not least how to correctly fold up long-sleeved t-shirts or ‘pitkahihainen t-paita’ as they say here in Finland.

For some reason ‘pitkahihainen t-paita’ has been chosen as my word of the day. My Finnish vocabulary now comprises of – hello, goodbye, yes, no, thank-you, milk, tomato, boxer-shorts, and t-shirt. I am very close to speaking fluent Finnish, and I can now hold a conversation with anybody, as long as it involves only the afore mentioned items or ingredients 😊.

Anyway, until next week,

Nakemiin, and thanks for reading,

Ian 😁

P.S. All relevant consent and permissions have been granted for the use of the photographs for the purpose of this blog.


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3 thoughts on “The Diary of a (Mature) Student Learning Disability Nurse Abroad: Week 2.

  1. Matey your blog is just wonderful I feel I am with you as I read it is apparent why you are going to go on to be one brilliant nurse your compassion never fails to amaze me of course I feel I may need do a mental health assessment on yourself as it is blatantly clear you are suffering from delusions of grandeur regarding the greatest football team in the world .We all now the greatest team in the world is Aston Villa .
    mate I feel a book in the making look forward to following your continued adventures in Finland

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another fantastic blog , we all miss you and are following your journey. I have in place a blog log and everyone loves reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very good story what you writting your`s blog you can tell kindly your`s life here to Finland and intressed see beuatiful nature, more lake, river, taste good food, go to sauna, listen music and travel by underground .


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