The study abroad program I am apart of (DIS) requires everyone to select a core course in which interests them. This core course meets three times a week and has two field study trips. Here at DIS, I am enrolled in the core course Comparative Approach of Healthcare Systems. For my class study tour week, we traveled to both Tallinn Estonia, and Helsinki Finalnd. During this trip we visited different components of each healthcare system in both countries and learned more of their culture and way that the government runs healthcare. We also did some other fun activities that allowed us to further explore the culture and lifestyle of the country we were in.
In Estonia, we first went on a historical walking tour of the city. One thing I learned is that only recently had Estonia been free of the Soviets. It was very cold and snowy during the time we were there, but the view was beautiful. During our time in Estonia, we visited a harm reduction NGO facility, and family health clinic. I noted that the approach Estonia has on drug abuse is a lot less stigmatized and more patient and care focused than in the US. A fun cultural activity we did was go curling, as Estonia is known for their curling team. Our class learned how to curl and then we played against each other.
In Finland, we also went on a historical walking tour of the city. It stood out to me that the Finnish do not enjoy small talk, and in fact they find it to be rude and intrusive. Finnish who come to the States often take classes on how to make small talk and what it is. Our tour guide made a joke when he told us how when he first started small talk when he had lived in the States that in response to someone asking how he was, he proceeded to tell them how sad he was about his dog with cancer. It is amazing to me how different cultures perceive small talk as in the US it is the polite thing to do. In Finland, we visited the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare and then we did a cultural event where we went into the forest and learned and experienced the cold weather traditions of Finland, such as homemade coffee, snow activities (sledding and snowshoeing), winter bathing, and eating different meats such as reindeer.
Overall I learned a lot from these two countries and had a really great time! It is so cool that I have been able to experience both aspects relating to my educational interests as well as differing personal cultures in these countries.