I was always skeptical about studying abroad. I never knew if I would be able to handle an entire semester away from home, my family and friends. When I heard about the option to study abroad in Belgium I immediately thought this would be the perfect fit for me. Two weeks spent in a country that I would never otherwise have the opportunity to visit was just the right amount of time. During this time away I not only learned a lot about students from Belgium, but also from Portugal, Estonia, Czech Republic, even students from Kansas. Everyone was extremely welcoming and the Belgian students welcomed us like we had been friends forever. They were amazing tour guides and always were around to help us translate the Dutch language to English. Everyone made us Americans feel as though we belonged at Artevelde Hodge School.
Not only did we create a special bond with the students, but also we were able to learn a great deal about end of life and palliative care. The first week was spent visiting hospitals around the country. This was a great opportunity for us to see the differences in health care compared to America. I enjoyed observing the units because it showed me what changes I could possibly implement on my unit when I become a nurse, as well as the similarities both of our countries share in the health care field. During the course itself, I gained a lot of knowledge and hands on learning experience with palliative care comfort measures. These included skills such as Haptonomy, massage, acupressure and aromatherapy. I felt as though these were great measures to know, especially since we do not focus on them in our course at UCONN, and am excited to share my new skills with my peers. The greatest part of the experience, for me, was the debate on Euthanasia. This is such a highly controversial topic and it was very interesting to hear about it from a country where it is legalized. I learned much more about Euthanasia than I ever expected and now am able to form my own educated opinion on the topic.
I believe end of life and palliative care is a very important area that everyone should be aware of. After studying in Ghent, I feel like I have the knowledge and skills I was hoping for, prior to taking the course. I also feel much more culturally competent and am grateful that I was able to learn so much about so many different countries. My eyes were opened to an entirely new way of care and I now know how important palliative care is for our patients. If I had another opportunity to study abroad I would definitely return to Belgium.