Hayley Knicely and Mandi Mills, occupational therapy, ’16, traveled to Hong Kong Polytechnic University for Rehabilitation Sciences for two weeks to learn about occupational therapy in a different culture. In addition to their many hands-on experiences they attended faculty lectures regarding physical therapy and occupational therapy research and enjoyed touring the sights of Hong Kong on the weekends. Read more about their travels and why they enjoy learning about how people live in other parts of the world.
Why did you choose to go to Hong Kong?
Knicely: Back in the Spring of 2017, the occupational therapy alumni were given information about an opportunity to apply and participate in an occupational therapy subsidy exchange program in Hong Kong. At first I thought it was just for occupational therapy students but after my colleague and friend, Mills, contacted their department we found out that we could apply even though we were already practicing therapists. We both have a serious case of the travel bug and could not pass up an opportunity to travel to Hong Kong for two weeks on an all-expenses paid (minus meals and sightseeing) trip to learn about how occupational therapy looks internationally.
Why were you excited about this opportunity?
Knicely: I absolutely love learning about different cultures and seeing how different people live around the world. I was very excited to have this opportunity to learn where occupational therapy is practiced in Hong Kong society and of the emerging areas of research that are being explored at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University of Rehabilitation Sciences.
Mills: I was intrigued by the opportunity to learn about occupational therapy from an eastern medicine perspective where we could learn or practice tai chi, qigong and acupuncture.
What did you find most rewarding about your experience in Hong Kong?
Knicely: What I actually found was the most rewarding about my experience in Hong Kong was the fact that not only did we get to learn how occupational therapy is applied and carried out in Hong Kong culture but there were also 40 other physical therapy and occupational therapy students there from around the world including but not limited to Australia, Canada, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. I appreciated having the opportunity to compare and contrast how occupational therapy was practiced in different countries. Making some good, long-lasting friendships wasn’t too bad either!
Mills: I also valued meeting 40 other therapists from around the world. It created a sense of unity as we studied various intervention models yet also served as a unique cultural comparison.
How were you able to use your skills as an occupational therapist?
Knicely: I was able to use my skills as an occupational therapist by putting on that occupational therapy lens to view every tour we had of different facilities and rehabilitation centers. For example, on one of the days of the program we visited a massive inpatient rehabilitation hospital that had different floors and even buildings for different patient populations such as for stroke rehabilitation, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and even a whole unit for inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services. I loved seeing how occupation-based they were with these populations in helping them get back home and become participating members of society again.
Mills: Knicely and I were the only currently practicing occupational therapists of the cohort. The rest of the participants had recently graduated or were about to graduate. I believe that by being one of the few occupational therapists I was able to encourage those who were almost finished with their fieldwork rotations or doctoral theses.
What did you learn from this experience and how will it benefit you in your occupational therapy career?
Knicely: One of the unique skill sets I gained from this experience was learning how Eastern medicine, such as tai chi, yoga and acupuncture can be merged and incorporated into Western treatment methods. I can definitely see myself having some of my higher functioning clients who are in inpatient rehabilitation practice some tai chi moves to challenge balance deficits and bring awareness to one’s body and center of gravity.
Mills: I continue to be amazed that within the world of occupational therapy there are multiple ways to support clients. There is not just one right way. Because I was willing to stretch myself outside of my comfort zone (such as flying to Hong Kong), I learned I can be more creative in my treatments. For example tai chi and qigong can be effective techniques for people with arthritis and autism. Whatever it may be, I hope to continue learning from other cultures, religions and practices.