Finish-Exchange program: Shaharu’s unforgettable experience

My name is Nasasira Shaharu, a student at Clarke International University (CIU) pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing and I’m currently in my third year.I am privileged to be one of the students chosen from my class to take part in the Finish-exchange program at HAMK University of Applied Science in Finland for a period of 3 months.

It almost feels like it was just yesterday when I found myself on a plane to Finland and I was both nervous and excited about what the whole program would turn out to be.

Right from Year 1, I always wanted to be part of this exchange program because of all the amazing stories I had heard from the previous students who had gotten a chance to go to Finland. The thought of living in a new country all by myself filled my stomach with butterflies and I could only imagine all the new friends I would make.

At the end of my Year 3, semester 1, the Dean School of Nursing called me and surprised me with the news that I had been selected to take part in the Finland student exchange program. I had meetings with the Academic Registrar and she advised me on what clothes to pack, expected code of conduct and how to cope with the change in environment. I then got an email from the school coordinator in Finland and next thing I knew, my flight was booked.

While in Finland, I lived in Hämeenlinna and it had a small population. There was no traffic, they only had one major mall and everything was in close proximity. By the time I arrived in early February, it was still winter season and the temperature would sometimes go below freezing point. Luckily, I had been forewarned about the weather and I had packed the appropriate clothing to keep me warm. Aside from making my hands freeze and pain sometimes, I enjoyed the coldness and snow because I was able to participate in games like skiing which cannot be done in Uganda.

I participated in a variety of clinical placements which included surgical, medical, palliative care and health promotion especially among teenagers. I appreciated the management of different health conditions by the health care team.

At HAMK, I took part in a simulation class whereby we were presented with a patient scenario and students had to react while being watched on camera by fellow students and lecturers. This was a good opportunity for discussion about what the students did well and where they could improve.

I made friends with people from France, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Belgium, Spain, Hungary, Scotland and others. My friends took me out to hockey games, restaurants, road trips, forest walks and visiting different big cities. I never felt homesick because I had friends who made sure I felt at home. They were all always there for me and helping me with all the adjustments I had to make like school, getting rides, hanging out, shopping, learning Finnish and many other activities. I will forever remember all the fun times I had with them.

Every week, I met with other exchange students in our area. It was fun when we were together because we saw how language, skin color or height didn't matter. We were all the same. We were able to bond right away because we were all going through the same experience as exchange students so we talked about our differences at home, school, and our countries. I got the opportunity to learn so many things about other cultures and got to share my own. I remember cooking Matooke during the cultural week. I was stressed about it but everyone loved it!

Being away for 3 months and living alone in a completely different World from what I was used to taught me a lot of things like breaking barriers, socializing skills, how to live independently among others. I have grown mentally and my perspective has changed in ways I never would have imagined.

I appreciate the entire University administration, family, and friends who made my dream of being a part of this exchange program come true. This will forever be the best time of my life because I was exposed to a new world and it was totally a life changing experience. I am forever grateful to CIU for this amazing once in a lifetime opportunity.