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Health students’ views challenged on Amsterdam Trip

Health student in Amsterdam

The concept of internationalisation has at its heart the aim to introduce students to different, settings cultures and perspectives from across the globe.

Within the School of Health we know that this experience is difficult to achieve in a traditional classroom setting. Students need to be immersed in these settings and cultures to be able to fully embrace their personalised view of these perspectives and reflect on their own values and viewpoints.

A group of 25 students from a range of four courses; Health and Social Care, Sexual Health Studies, Counselling and Psychotherapy and Community Public Health Nursing were given the opportunity to go on an educational field trip to Amsterdam. The purpose of the visit was to enable students to explore issues facing people in the Netherlands such as child trafficking, harm reduction programmes for drug users, the legalisation of cannabis, prostitution and voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Students benefited from the opportunity to meet representatives from a wide range of groups and agencies. These included; ECPAT, which campaigns for an end to child prostitution and trafficking, Right to Die-NL (NVVE in Dutch), who campaign for the recognition of a free choice for the ending of life and its assistance and the Prostitution Information Centre (PIC), an educational centre which promotes free choice and dialogue to create public respect for sex workers.

The director and one of the founding members of the drug advice centre in Amsterdam also talked to the students about how drug issues are being tackled in the Netherlands with particular reference to harm reduction programmes. To enrich these discussions the students took part in a walking tour of the red-light district by night to enable them to explore the diverse history along the streets of one Amsterdam’s oldest and most controversial districts.

The core aim of this trip was to challenge students, and move them away from traditional ways of thinking. Here students’ pre-conceived values and beliefs around euthanasia, harm reduction and prostitution were exposed and changed. As an academic it was heart-warming for me to hear reflections such as the ones below. These truly summed up the impact of this experience.

Health students in class

“I feel my opinions regarding certain topics have changed and I am now more open-minded. I have also learnt a lot about different cultures and how their views differ from ours.”

Health and Social Care Year 2 student

Health students in Amsterdam

“It was truly an eye opener to a very different culture.”

Counselling and Psychotherapy Year 2 student

Health students in Amsterdam

“I gained a greater sense of tolerance and experience of how harm reduction works.”

Sexual Health Studies Year 3 student

Sharing this experience with students from different courses appeared to have an additional benefit. Students remarked that they had developed further insight about other students, their programmes, practice and experience of learning. Students reported this trip had even inspired ideas for further study through their networking with other students. A Health and Social Care student summed it up nicely: “I learned a lot both academically and socially with others in the group. I came away feeling liberated and confident that I coped so well in a new place and really got the most out of it.”