Soulbus

Guiding Foreign Students in Practical Placement – Sharing Ideas and Good Practices

Soulbus project at conclusion of it’s run

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The Soulbus project has come to the conclusion of it’s run. It commenced on the 1st of October in 2013. and concluded on the 30th of September in 2015. with the duration of 2 years.

The idea behind the project was to take a thorough systematic approach in studying the multicultural situation in partner countries at two levels; the Higher Education Institution as well as the Working Life Partner. This approach would provide a comprehensive picture of the academic and practical situation and issues faced by both organizations at different levels of the internationalization process, regardless whether at the beginning of accepting student exchanges and practical placements or already having an abundance of experience.

To identify these issues, a case study approach was used. The partner in charge of preparation and case analysis researched and developed a questionnaire to be carried out by the rest of the consortium to capture the current relevant information about the situation at the higher education institution and working life partner of each country in regards to multicultural skills and competencies of teachers and mentors who deal with foreign students. This information was summarized into a case repository which served as a basis for further development of the project and it’s final products.

A multicultural eLearning content was developed by the partner in charge of designing and piloting the Multicultural coaching programme. The content was designed based on the issues and challenges identified by the questionnaire and summarized into a case repository and relevant research. It got it’s name through a call for proposals of naming the content and a eCoach was selected.

The eCoach content is divided into two parts: the 1st general part covering multiculturalism and the 2nd country and profession specific part that deals with multicultural issues and challenges in a specific country and stage of dealing with foreign students. Both parts were subject to piloting by both higher education institution and working life partner professionals whose task was to identify and report how the content can be improved to better provide for other countries and institutions which are looking to improve their internationalization efforts and cooperation on behalf of their foreign incoming students to make their academic and practical placement stay as best as possible.

The content in turn was presented to a wider higher education institution and working life partner audience in an effort to provide insight into the value and benefits of the project for the end users: teachers at university and mentors in working life partners teaching students critical occupational skills.

The value of the project can be summarized into the following points:

  • the cooperation between the higher education institutions and the working life partners has been strengthened and improved,
  • international cooperation has been improved between the higher education institutions as well as working life partners between project partner countries,
  • eCoach part A has been developed to clarify and elaborate the multicultural issues identified in the case repository in an informative and fun approach which makes learning for teachers and mentors all the more simpler,
  • eCoach part B has been developed to cover specific issues for each country and profession identified in the case repository and follows the same outline as part A,
  • specific issues identified by each country at different levels of working with foreign students,
  • specific issue resolutions identified and carried out by each country,
  • guidelines and references for other countries and institutions preparing to take on foreign students and teaching them as well as placing them in practical placement.

This project is funded and supported by the European Commission for Life Long learning.  We thank them for their support.

Please visit the website dedicated to eCoach and take a look at what multiculturalism is, what are the six indicators of multicultural competence and six different approaches to different issues and challenges as well as methods and approaches that were used to improve the higher education institutions and working life partner resources for teaching future professionals!


Russian experience in Finland

 

This story is brought to you by a student from Russia studying in Finland.
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I am originally from Russia. Before coming to Finland I studied linguistics and foreign languages at the university in Saint-Petersburg. After graduation I realized that being a translator in the environment where everyone is using computer vocabularies is senseless. I always wanted to do something helpful and effective for people, this is how I chose nursing.

I really like studying in Lahti and at Lahti University of Applied Sciences. The atmosphere in this city is very calm and peaceful. As for school I can say that theoretical and practical parts in the Faculty of Social and Health Care are organized well. Lectures are performed by real health care workers, so all the material which is given is important during clinical trainings.

Although theory which we study at school is interesting I can say that practical part that we are doing at the hospitals is more exciting. For me all the clinical trainings which I’ve done were a positive experience. The only difficulty there is language and sometimes the attitude of other nurses towards students, especially foreigners.

During practice we usually have two mentors: one is a nurse who is guiding and helping the student and another one is a teacher from school who is also helping the student, assessing and evaluating. Those relationships between nurse-mentor – student and school mentor – student are very important.

In fact, during first clinical training nurse-mentor is the one, who helps student to start acting and thinking like a nurse, to develop confidence in what student is doing. As to school-mentor he/she somehow leads the student on the right path by assessing and discussing the goals, which is also very important. In my opinion the only improvement in clinical training that can be done is to encourage new students to learn Finnish language right after they started their studies in our faculty, because as I already said the main problem during practice is language barrier and students should understand that without knowing Finnish language training at the hospital is not that exciting and interesting, but very hard and stressful.

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Students from Scotland in Slovenia

This story is brought to you by the Faculty of Nursing Jesenice, detailing the experience of two Scottish students in Slovenia on exchange through Erasmus.

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As Scotland is becoming more and more multicultural, we both realized the importance of preparing ourselves for professional practice in a culturally diverse healthcare environment. Based on advice from our lecturer, we chose to study in Jesenice, Slovenia to help improve our skills and become culturally competent in providing care.

As students with a minimum knowledge of Europe and foreign languages, our lecturer guided us towards a study destination. After researching the country, we realized the healthcare system was similar to NHS Scotland and had the added bonus of having beautiful scenery and was culturally diverse.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with extremely friendly and welcoming staff members from the Jesenice College of Nursing. They were always on hand to help with any questions or queries, always responding quickly to our needs. They were able to offer advice on both clinical practice and on local attractions within the local area and country. We were given the opportunity to take Slovenian language lessons, which proved very beneficial and interesting, helping to make our stay a lot easier.

Throughout placement, we were able to experience clinical practice within 5 different departments. This allowed us to compare and contrast the level of care provided in comparison to Scotland whilst learning new skills, working with the language barrier and improving our knowledge. The Jesenice College of Nursing were also able to provide us with experiences we may not have came across had we stayed in Scotland.

At times clinical practice was difficult and challenging due to the language barrier. We were able to work through this with support from our tutors, in particular, Marta Smodis who strived to help us on all occasions. During our time in Jesenice General Hospital, we both felt our favourite area was working within the Intensive Care departments. We were able to spend a lot of time learning about patient conditions whilst practicing our essential nursing skills. The staff was always friendly and allowed us to become independent and confident student nurses.

Due to our location, travelling around Slovenia and other European countries was extremely easy and accessible. We were in short reach of Lake Bled, Kranjska Gora and the capital city, Ljubljana. These were our favourite places to visit and where we spent most of our weekends. We also had the added bonus of visiting the Radovljica chocolate festival, which was a clear highlight of our time in Slovenia.

The Jesenice College of Nursing introduced us to student tutors who had previously participated in an Erasmus exchange programme. Teo and Suzanna were friendly, welcoming and great fun to spend time with. They were able to show us around and make us feel comfortable. We felt that we were able to discuss any queries about clinical practice and the local area. We were always given honest and helpful advice. We feel that we have made friends for life!

Overall this has been an experience of a lifetime that we will never forget. We will leave Jesenice as stronger, more confident nurses, which will definitely help prepare us for the world of work. We can’t thank the staff and student tutors of Jesenice School of Nursing enough for this unforgettable, positive experience.

Hvala lipa! To je bilo super. (Thank you very much. It was great.)

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Students from Poland and Finland In Croatia

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Working in a desired field is important for the quality of one’s life. We choose universities according to personal wishes and attributes and enrol to perfect skills and competencies as well as acquire new knowledge to give our best at the workplace. A well performed job is of utmost importance in human services and provides a contribution to the community we live in.
Universities today offer programmes of further professional studies abroad; accessible travel services and accommodation provide the choice of prolonging our stay. Such programmes provide classes and practical placements to fully realize and apply theory and as such allow more profound learning of new skills and knowledge to apply in the workplace upon returning home.
Along with a prolonged stay offering a chance for better learning theoretical and practical skills, it also provides the opportunity to explore in more depth the culture we are coming in. All cultures have their history, monuments, art, way of life and customs, music and cooking – all different from ours. All this can be seen, tried, heard and tasted in the time between lectures, seminars or over the weekend and mini travels. Different can be very interesting!
As confirmation of this claim, we offer experiences of foreign students who spent one semester at the Education and rehabilitation faculty of the University of Zagreb. Except for participating in compulsory academic activities, the students also participated in everyday life in Zagreb and got to know a culture different from their own.

Magdalena, Erasmus student from Poland: Zagreb and Croatia itself made my stay a great experience. I travelled a lot around the country and had an opportunity to taste Croatian cousin, listen to Croatian music and experience a lot of openness which appeared to me as a Croatian general attitude. Wherever I was people seemed to be very happy to share their culture with me. I learned a lot about Balkans, the history of the conflict here and diverse attitudes towards the Homeland War. Zagreb as a city has definitely the biggest group of exchange students in Croatia which makes it easy to get to know people from different countries. The multicultural environment helped me to see my own culture in a new light and it widened my horizons.
Laura, Erasmus student from Finland: Zagreb is a great city for students! I’m glad I chose to live in a dormitory instead of a shared flat, because by living in students’ dormitory I’ve been able to experience how local students are living. Students in Finland have their own rooms so sharing a room for one semester has been a new experience for me. I think the tempo of living in Croatia is slightly slower than in Finland, and people don’t seem to be as stressed or they are just hiding it well. In my experience most people are open, helpful and warm. I love the café culture, because many Croatians are coffee lovers just like Finns. I’ve been lucky to have found many friends, both Croatians and other foreigners. In Zagreb there’s always something going on and staying at home is impossible. I’m really happy and grateful about everything I’ve experienced in Croatia and I would recommend Erasmus for everybody!

On these learning trips we meet people, talk, work together and through practice offer services to people belonging to another culture. This “gap” in cultures may mean that we don’t share (the same) attitudes and beliefs and that’s alright! These differences can bring misunderstandings in communication, behaviour, work and finally – embarrassing situations because of lack of knowledge which may undermine impressions that we carry on through life. However, this is where the challenge is!
Knowing there is a consciousness regarding different cultures and the decision to learn what are and how to successfully overcome these differences through acquisition of multicultural competencies is of the best decisions in life; understanding how to recognize and evade embarrassing situations is a great start! Think what motivated you to choose this calling and be sure that Soulbus offers a system of support so that you can in a simple an fun way learn about multicultural competencies and prepare yourself to provide better services anywhere in the world.

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Lithuanian and Finland student experiences in Estonia

This story is brought to you by Kalmer Marimaa, a lecturer at Tartu Health Care College.

 

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At the beginning of November 2014 we held a group discussion with Erasmus+ international students in Tartu Health Care College. We had a round-table meeting with three international students (two from Lithuania and one from Finland), where also three of our staff members were involved (local Erasmus coordinator and two persons involved in Soulbus project). Those three students have been doing their practical training in Tallinn and Tartu hospitals since the end of August, or from the start of September. We were interested in their experiences and impressions.

They felt that they received a friendly welcome in their training places. Their mentors in hospitals were very helpful and trusted them. They had observation practice and very soon they were involved in practising different medical skills by themselves.

The only and main difficulty the students experienced was language skills. Most of their mentors knew English very well, but many of the hospital staff knew only Estonian, and/or Russian, but no English. As they practised in different shifts, then fortunately there were at least a few persons in every shift who spoke English, so they could get information and help when needed. Their mentors helped them to communicate with patients (translated, etc.). Sometimes they needed to approach patients by themselves, so basic knowledge in Estonian and Russian was helpful. Some patients knew English, and some even spoke, for example, Finnish, but mostly the patients knew only Estonian, and/or Russian.

The students made a few suggestions how to improve international student training: to have an intensive Estonian language course for incoming students, and to be sure that their local mentors (instructors) speak English. Also some knowledge in Russian is helpful when practising in Tallinn.


Overall, the students evaluated their practical training period as a very useful experience where they learned a lot about what is needed in their work in future.

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Soulbus eCoach 2nd pilot completed

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The Soulbus consortium successfully developed and piloted the B part of the eCoach eLearning content . The content is specific to individual country and profession needs that the partner pairs (University and supporting Working Life Partner) identified at the beginning of the project when a Case study was done and summarized into a Case repository.

From that Case repository each partner pair identified issues that hindered their abilities to provide rewarding and stimulating education to a part of their student body. These represent a growing number of international students attending university  who lack access beyond courses taught in English to further academic development by a shortage of available resources for applying their studies in direct work with clients under professional supervision of mentors; for example: a lack of common language between students and mentors, lack of guidelines for introducing students to their new environment and helping them adjust as well as clearly communicating expectations by the members of the faculty or mentors for successful completion of their practical placement; finally, the individual cultural differences that govern behaviors and influence thoughts and feelings of individuals which may lead to misunderstandings and misjudgments (or positive discrimination) in student performance.

Partner pairs identified a range of approaches to solving these issues which will cater to all higher education institution and working life partner institutions facing multicultural challenges regardless whether they are just starting out in sending their students abroad for exchange, accepting foreign nationals, having them in practical placement or graduation. These include activities such as collaboration of home national and foreign national students in activities during placement, guidelines for faculty members and mentors on how to approach mentoring foreign national students as well as teachers understanding their own biases in grading foreign students, workshops for incoming students on how to enjoy studying and successfully pass exams… All these are now available online, so to find out more – please visit the following website or click on the picture below!

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Student stories on their exchange experiences

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This blog is dedicated to publishing information on the Soulbus project – Building Social Capital between mentors and teachers by Improving Multicultural Competence in the fields of Education, Rehabilitation and Social & Health Care.

Although it may not seem apparent from the title of the project as it is oriented towards improving competencies of teachers and mentors, the ultimate beneficiaries of these improved skills are students. Students today are given a wide range of opportunities to visit universities in other countries and take part in their courses. This in turn provides them with new grounds to study and perspectives to consider for the benefit of their future clients. For these courses to be beneficial, students need to enjoy an environment that is conductive to their education, inclusive for every student regardless if they are a home-national of foreign and challenging at the same time to provide a stimulating learning experience. These three are the responsibility of teachers and mentors as well as their support staff at their respective institutions.

Records show that recently the number of universities and working life partners started increasing by offering places to foreign students which is having an impact on the range of choices and opportunities for study as well as getting to know and learning about different cultures, regardless how far they are. To make things clearer, this blog will feature articles to better illustrate the goal and importance of this project, with stories from students point of view while on exchange and their feelings on the whole experience.

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Development of tailored eLearning under way

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The Soulbus consortium recently completed the 1st pilot of the multicultural eLearning content, the assessments were given to the development team who have been working on implementing the suggestions. When these implementations are completed, the new and improved content will be made available for the 2nd pilot. These two will help improve content, making it interesting and very informative for future students of multiculturalism.

The quality assurance team also carried out a pole asking participants to provide feedback on how they feel about how the project is progressing.

Meanwhile the project is continuing. Each partner pair, representing their own country, started on developing a country centered material and approach that will be present and cover multicultural issues and challenges that have been identified for that particular country and it’s Higher education institution as well as Working life partner in the Case study and summarised into the Case study repository. Assignments have been handed out and the team has been steadily reading through literature, assembling materials and editing it all together into a tangible and useful tool for teaching multicultural competencies and skills to future professionals working in social and medical care as well as education and rehabilitation so they may perform well facing challenges in multicultural environments.

We have also picked the minds of students who were faced with issues and challenges of taking up student exchange programmes across the European Union as well as Universities outside this region and asked them to provide some feedback on what was their experience like. Their stories will be published one by one and you will get to see what were the challenges they faced and perhaps you will rely on all they said and did to find a quicker and better solution for facing these challenges while going through our eLearning content.

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1st pilot of Soulbus eLearning completed!

 

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The Soulbus consortium has completed the 1st pilot of the multicultural eLearning content and participants in the pilot have handed over their assessments of the subject matter. This material will be studied by the eLearnign designers at Saxion University and the results will be incorporated as changes made to the content. This content will then be made available for the 2nd pilot that will be assessed as well.

The multicultural eLearning content was presented at the 3rd kickoff meeting held at the Faculty for Education and Rehabilitation Sciences of the University of Zagreb in November 2014. Partners responsible for every work package came to share information on project development and their plans for the future. The major development was the completion of the eLearning content that was designed based on the information that was supplied by every partner country and analysed by Faculty of Health Care Jesenice providing a case study repository. The repository served for training needs analysis and production of job level and individual level requirement descriptions that would provide the direction of where designers would go with the content.

The content was uploaded to the internet to a special platform with all partners being provided with information how to access the content. Partners were asked to take a look at the content and provide insight into their own perception and if the content was able to fulfill it’s purpose of providing an interesting and motivating learning environment and meeting their learning needs.

This was achieved through an online questionnaire which was made available to assessing professionals. Everyone logged on and completed a questionnaire focusing pedagogical, didactical, professional and psychological aspects that were covered in the material. Each person was required to provide their attitudes toward the content and a description of how it may be improved. The attitudes are important as it represents also a degree of enthusiasm towards training as well as abilities related to knowledge or skill acquisition. This is important as a positive attitude will support a positive approach, openness to learning as well as better understanding and knowledge retention.

The purpose of the eLearning is to train professionals in social and medical care as well as education and rehabilitation to perform well in multicultural environments; regardless of whether they are working in a multicultural team or serving a multicultural public or client. New professionals entering the field will be provided with a course in multiculturalism while seasoned professionals who have very little or no multicultural skills will be given a platform to learn more and develop their skills further to meet the needs of the changing working environment such as teaching and transferring their professional experience to students.

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Happy New Year 2015.

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The Soulbus team wish you a very happy New Year 2015. May it meet you with challenges and reward you with successes in your endeavors.

 

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