The Diary of a (Mature) Student Learning Disability Nurse Abroad: Week 4.

Well, here I am. I’m exactly half way through my eight-week placement and I’m feeling a real mix of emotions. Firstly, I’m feeling a little bit proud of myself for getting this far, and I really have no shame in admitting this. I think sometimes we look at pride as a bad thing, but I don’t see it this way – there’s a big difference between pride and arrogance. What is the point of putting yourself out of your comfort zone unless you come through it, learn from it, and reflect on it? Pride is a natural emotion, yet we often hide it for fear of being judged.

Over this past four weeks I have really grown to love this country, and I have made lots of good friends who I’ll miss when I return. I am of course looking forward to seeing my family and loved ones, as well as finishing my course and starting my career as a qualified #RNLD (results and sign off permitting), but for now I am just concentrating on getting the most out of my last month here in beautiful Suomi. I will hopefully be returning next summer as a qualified nurse – just to celebrate, sauna, and swim in the lake!

The Sky is on Fire!

Now rather than carry on writing a diary of my experiences, I have decided that for the next four weeks I will just pick out key issues, thoughts and observations, starting with. . . . 


It was pointed out to me before I departed England that I’d put on a bit of weight, and I was hoping that my time over here would help me to lose a little. That is just not going to happen.

The food at the Opisto is really good (except for the liver and the cabbage pie!) and I’m very grateful that the staff, volunteers and English students get to eat with the students at meal times. Not only is this really social, but the food is also really good! Breakfast is what we’d describe as ‘continental’ with a choice of porridge, fruit, yoghurt, ham, cheese, salad and bread, whereas lunch and dinner are hot and hearty meals consisting of stews, soups, pasta dishes, meat, fish, vegetables and salads. All I need to say is that I have eaten every day for a month at the Opisto and have never had the same thing twice – that’s a gauge of the variety of food provided. The one constant however is milk; lots and lots of milk. I have learnt that this is the drink of choice for most Finnish people at meal times.

At this point, I also feel that I should point out my newly acquired liquorice addiction. Now, I have always quite liked the odd liquorice allsort, but things have got a little out of hand since I arrived in Lehtimaki. It started when I tried the Salmiakki (which is a hard, salty liquorice) and I have since moved on to liquorice bars, Salmiakki chocolate and Salmiakki ice-cream, I honestly can’t get enough. It has gotten so bad I have decided to leave all of my clothes here in Finland so I have more room in my case for liquorice. Two of my friends have also pointed me in the direction of alcoholic Salmiakki and Salmiakki ear-rings, both of which interest me greatly (thank you Aire and Arja!). I am now thinking of drinking a few shots of Koskenkorva Salmiakki and getting my ears pierced before I return home 😊



Well, shopping for the last four-weeks has consisted mainly of brisk walks around the S-Market, which is a Co-op sized shop which sells pretty much everything you need for day to day living (they have an awesome liquorice selection!!). It is no more expensive than the UK if you buy Finnish produce, with milk, bread, cheese, cooked meat, eggs, sausage, chicken and salad being my staple foods. I would go as far as saying that all of these things are actually cheaper than back home (except for the salad!!) and I have enjoyed not over-complicating my meals. Obviously, having food provided at work helps and I’m often not that hungry when I get home.

I do need to point out that not all shopping in Finland is at the S-Market, and on Monday evening I was treated to a trip to Kylakauppa in Tuuri with my friends Tomi and Iris. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. This place was something else completely! 

I can honestly say that it was the biggest shop I had ever been in. The swankiest too! There were fountains, marble unicorns, decorated ceilings and birdsong piped through the speakers, and this was just in the gent’s toilets. The supermarket itself was the size of a small shopping centre and it even had a whole section dedicated to The Moomins which was pretty amazing.

I also easily managed to pick up the pair of Crocs that I needed to blend in with everyone else at work which was definitely 6 euros well spent. People now look at me and nod their heads in appreciation like I have been well and truly accepted as one of their own.




School Visit.

On Wednesday I was lucky enough to be invited by Heikki to talk at the school where he works as an English teacher. I really enjoyed this experience, and after being given a tour of the school and introduced to some of the staff and pupils, I was able to experience some of their lessons. This was really interesting as they were having a week focusing on health, so managed to see lessons ranging from basic anatomy and physiology, to cookery and health promotions. I was really impressed with the school – it was modern, the classrooms were light and comfortable and it seemed really forward thinking. I was also impressed by the small class sizes (15 pupils) and the non-uniform policy, the pupils were also well behaved, engaging, and more than willing to test out their English skills.

The session that I was involved in was broaching issues such as sleep hygiene, energy drink consumption, eating habits and social media use. I really enjoyed the session, especially the fact that it was interactive, and the pupils answered questions on their mobile phones, feeding in to results gathered on Kahoot. I also really loved that Heikki introduced me as ‘an expert nurse from Birmingham, England’ – after quickly looking around and realising he was talking about me, I smiled and filed that away as the best introduction I have ever been given – I will never forget that Heikki, thank you 😂😂😂. The session finished with a question and answer session where I was asked questions about my life and my journey in to nursing. Everybody seemed to be interested and engaged, so it was a good session and a great day.


Finnish Parliamentary Elections.

Today (Friday) was voting day at the Opisto. I just love the fact that they set the polling station up in one of the classrooms and all of the students were supported to cast their votes. Obviously, not everyone wanted to, but a large proportion did, and I was lucky enough to be able to support one student through the process.

This process started back in the Asva where Raija helped him to look through the candidates to help with his decision. She explained what area they were from and what they said they would do if elected. This was a really thorough process and after much reading and debating, he made a decision. I then went down to the polling room with him to cast his vote. It was all very quick and easy, his identity was checked, his form filled in, it was stamped, and posted. It was really nice to see that there was a steady stream in and out and it was all treated with the respect the process deserved.

I will admit however, that I did have a heart in mouth moment when I first walked in to the room. The voting booth was situated right in front of a map of the European Union 🇪🇺 I did worry for one second about what the vote was for!

Frexit? Surely not????

Anyway, until next time,


Ian 😀


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4 thoughts on “The Diary of a (Mature) Student Learning Disability Nurse Abroad: Week 4.

  1. Lovely blog thoroughly enjoyed xc


  2. This is a wonderful recording of your experiences and should be shared far and wide to encourage all students to step outside of their comfort zone. I’cmve Really enjoyed following this Ian, a true inspiration


    1. Really kind words Steve. This is without doubt, the best experience of my life 😁


  3. Love reading about your experiences, so glad you’re enjoying it..


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