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Volume 11 Edition 3: November 2011 Emily Holmes, Editor

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For a updated and complete listing of Faculty who have received International Travel Funding, please click here.

UNCG students study in Norway with Dr. Linda Buettner

Students in Norway

Karmen Quakenbush and Justine Intiso

Dr. Linda Buettner, Professor of Gerontology and Therapeutic Recreation, and five students studying therapeutic recreation for older adults with dementia travelled to Stavanger, Norway, to the Teaching Nursing Home in May 2011.  The program was conducted in partnership with Dr. Ingelin Testad at the University of Stavanger and was aimed at giving students the opportunity to practice their skills in a diverse setting.

Training with wheel chair bicycle

Dr. Linda Buettner training staff to use the wheelchair bike

In order to prepare for the study abroad experience, students spent a full semester on both book learning and experiential learning.  Each student became an “expert” in one intervention by practicing at a local nursing home in Greensboro, NC, before traveling abroad.  Since the local nursing home did not have recreational therapy, the students had the opportunity to bring something new and different, while providing for residents who were generally described as “difficult to engage.”  This practice experience gave each student a skill set and a perspective for comparison in Norway.

In Norway, the student therapists offered something different in their approach by providing individualized therapeutic activities based on specific needs and problems.  The experience of trying out therapeutic programs in Greensboro and Norway prompted personal growth in both the students and the nursing home residents.  The students and the residents reported that they had more self-confidence in their own abilities and were more open to trying new things.  For the students, the experience of learning on the job also served as a catalyst for increased maturity.  For the residents, the experience with the students brought back many memories—both personal and functional, and in some ways, brought back their youth.

Students on Pulpit Rock

Therapeutic Recreation Students on Pulpit Rock outside Stavanger, Norway

Through this experience, the students acquired skill sets that influenced their career paths and their desire to learn more about other cultures.  They also learned about some of the challenges of working with non-recreation therapy health care staff, which will help them as they move forward in their careers.  The students saw how baths, medication administration, and the other daily tasks were given priority over therapeutic work.  Many students also developed their desire to continue the study of aging and work with older people in their future.  For several students, the study aboard experience has led them to apply for graduate school.

Overall, the encounter bridged a generation gap and had a lasting positive impact on everyone involved, including the institutions where the students served.  Neither of the nursing homes had recreational therapy opportunities available prior to this experiment.

Wheel chair bicycle

Kaitlin Stevens and Karmen Quakenbush on the wheelchair bike

In Greensboro, the relationship that was established with the local nursing home has remained as they continue to want student volunteers.  In the future, Dr. Buettner hopes to add nursing students to this study abroad experience in order to build interdisciplinary understanding and side by side work for the betterment of residents with dementia. 

A full article about the Norway study abroad experience has been published in the Fall 2011Special Issue of Activities Directors Quarterly for Alzheimer's Disease.

For more information about this study abroad opportunity, visit:  http://www.uncg.edu/ctr/norway.html

Previous editions:
- Vol 11, ed 2: October 2011
- Vol 11, ed 1: September 2011

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