Virtual international mobility

Masters of Occupational Therapy Practice students have continued their international mobility studies during COVID-19

Masters of Occupational Therapy Practice students have continued their international mobility studies during COVID-19.

It is no mean feat given lockdowns and border closures, but lecturer Dr Anoo Bhopti ensured her students were given the opportunity to gain valuable digital health experience that will equip them for the COVID-normal world.

Each year, up to 21 students complete a mobility experience at ADAPT India (a non-profit organisation that services people with disabilities in Mumbai), Project Noor (an organisation supporting the health and education needs of low socio-economic families in India) and Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Vietnam.

Anoo brokered the incredibly successful partnership in 2014 to “offer sustainable opportunities for international exchange in occupational therapy.” For several years it has been supported by highly competitive New Colombo Program grants.

“The program works in two ways,” Anoo explains. “It helps to build the capacity of vulnerable people in Asia, including children with disabilities and their families. It also builds student skills and employability.”

“Students who participate in this program are more likely to gain employment within three months of graduation. And, they develop soft skills such as resilience, teamwork and communication.”

This year, COVID-19 intervened, but the life-changing work continued.

Twelve students completed four online project placements. With specialist knowledge and creativity, students created telehealth solutions for children with disabilities, and developed online, culture-specific training modules to support occupational therapists in India.

Occupational therapy student, Ceara Cronin, said that the virtual placement enhanced her “cultural awareness and intercultural experience via technology.”

“I learned to work in partnership with international stakeholders, to be aware of cultural differences throughout the project, and to ensure the resources we developed were appropriate to India,” she says. “Unexpectedly, I also learned about the truly valuable contribution of telehealth to healthcare delivery.”

Fellow student, Tiffany Wasnig, agrees. “This mobility experience allowed me to immerse myself in a different culture,” she says. “I developed strong communication and planning skills to overcome challenges, like technology malfunctions. And, I discovered that anything is possible!”

Dr Anoo Bhopti hopes to continue the online program (alongside face-to-face) in 2021 to offer more students the opportunity to engage in internationalisation experiences from home.

“We must continue to find ways to enhance the learning experiences of our students, to help them become competent, compassionate and globally-enabled practitioners,” she says.

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