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Posted about 1 year ago
Let international travel transform you
This career journey will allow you to understand and appreciate patients from other cultures and help you adapt your care to them. International exchanges allow you to meet with and learn from nurses who practice in your specialty around the world. If you’ve ever considered volunteering for a humanitarian mission during a disaster, traveling to a different part of the world will help prepare you.
A word of caution: Traveling to other countries is guaranteed to transform your point of view. I’ve experienced many different cultures and met other home-care nurses all over the world. And through my experiences I’ve discovered the oneness that brings all nurses together.
As an alternative, try a literature search for a nursing topic and put “international” in the search string. Most articles contain the e-mail address of at least one author. You can write to an author and ask to visit the area and perhaps tour the author’s university or facility. Often, you will be a welcome visitor. You may even be asked to give a presentation at a college or hospital. In my own specialty of home care and hospice, few countries have a similar system, so I travel with photos and a list of Internet sites for interested colleagues.
Preparing for your trip
Make sure each host knows of your previous activities, so all events build on one another. Plan less structure for the end of the trip, when you are likely to be tired and thinking of home.
Wherever possible, stay in the home of a local person, even if English isn’t spoken in the home. I’ve stayed in Thai and Brazilian homes without knowing the local languages and managed to communicate with my hosts. Sometimes, communication is enhanced because hosts want to practice their English skills. Such exchanges can be a great source of pleasure for all involved.
Spend some time each day trying to find your own way around, even if you are with a group. Use public transportation. Order food or purchase souvenirs without a translator. These experiences can be the most exciting part of a trip. The more you submerge yourself in the culture, the greater the emotional experience and the more knowledge you acquire.
Keep a journal during your trip to help you remember the places you’ve been. Use a map to help you keep track and take pictures of signs to remind you. Periodically, e-mail family and friends to maintain contact with loved ones and to keep a record of your trip.
Collect business cards and make notes on the back of the cards. Be sure to leave your cards with others. Keep a business card of your hotel or the address of your host, so you can always find your way back.
Collaboration can also occur between visits. For example, exchange photos or consider co-authoring an article that compares your nursing specialty in the country you visited and the United States. Such activities help further develop your relationships.
During this rest time, send thank-you notes to contacts and suggest future activities. Also, use this time for the reflection needed to process your experience.
If you decide to integrate international travel into your career development plan, you’ll find many opportunities to meet nurses from all over the world. The joy of meeting others is surpassed only by the joy of self-discovery and growth. If you’re open to the cultural differences, you’ll find that the experience is professional and personal development at its finest.