An OT internship in Ukraine

My name is Freya and I went to Ukraine with Eva in spring 2020. We studied Occupational Therapy at Vives University of Applied Sciences Vives in Bruges and graduated this summer. We heard about the possibility to do an internship in Ukraine. We were motivated from the start. In the beginning I was quite nervous to go to Ukraine. Everyone in my environment was talking about the war that is still going on in Ukraine. Being nervous about leaving was not necessary because we got a lot of help of misses Denolf, Ira and a lot of other people from Ukraine who supported us and who helped us when we were in Ukraine. Ira picked us up at the airport and she showed us the next day Drohobych, the village where we stayed for 3 months. Ukraine is definitely a special country but I would love to go back one day. The people are nice, warm and friendly. At the internship we experienced some troubles in the first week because almost no one was speaking English. After some time we tried to speak Ukrainian and as we were trying to speak Ukrainian, we learned them English. So after a couple weeks we were able to communicate quite easily with everyone.

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This internship was necessary for my development as an occupational therapist. I learned to work with other kinds of material and with another view. In Ukraine they also focus on hydrotherapy and massages. Also the intensive care unit inside the rehabilitation centre was new for me. They have a lot of similar kinds of material but some are different like some assessments, cooking material and just the way of looking at a patient. I felt a lot of respect towards the patient and the family, faith is an important topic in Ukraine. In Ukraine they are faithful and they use this in their therapy. I felt that they need to focus more on inclusion of people with a disability.

My view on life in Belgium changed after the internship. This experience is for sure a life time changing experience. I learned a lot about myself, Ukraine and the mentality in Ukraine.

Ukraine is a very beautiful country and the nature is amazing.

We had a lot of changes to learn more about the healthcare system in Ukraine and I really felt that I could learn some things to the occupational therapists. They focus a lot on the physical part but more like having a normal gait pattern and how to empower the wheelchair. In Belgium we also focus on that part but we look further. We help them with problems in their normal life, we go to their houses to do some changes so the patient can live at his house alone but we also help them with small parts, like how to manipulate a fork. For me it was important to show the occupational therapists that those little things are equal important to improve the independence of the patient. It was more difficult to get a connection with the clients because we were not that good in the Ukrainian language. But I felt that we made some connections with the clients in different ways. We could talk using non-verbal communication and for me that was more special.


Occupational therapy is important and especially with this kind of disabilities. We worked with wheelchair users, people after stroke, people with amputations, children, elderly,..

As an occupational therapist you really can change their lives by learning little things that they can use in daily life so that they will have a success experience. 

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