Heather Longbottom (BSc Hons Physiotherapy) and lecturer Larissa Kempenaar travelled to the Netherlands to meet with the Physiotherapy staff and students at Hanze University in Groningen. This is Heather’s account of the trip.
“When stepping out of the train station into Groningen the first thing you notice is bikes! Bikes are everywhere; you soon learn that you don’t look for cars when crossing roads but bikes instead! Bikes are nearly everyone’s main form of transport as the Netherlands are so flat and it’s a lot quicker to cycle than go by car or bus. From a physiotherapist’s perspective, this a really great thing to see and encourage as without realising many people are doing physical activity every day. This is the biggest contrast I observed when comparing the Netherlands to Scotland. The geography of the Scottish landscape plays a huge part in why so few people cycle on a daily basis because it is neither time efficient nor appealing to many people. Also, Scotland’s climate is less favourable for cycling in comparison to the Netherlands (where the temperature rarely goes below 3°). However, in some more major cities such as Glasgow or Edinburgh there may be more people who could easily incorporate cycling as an alternative mode of transport.
When arriving at the university it is also apparent that there is no physiotherapy dress code; rather than wearing leggings or navy trousers and a polo shirt like we do at GCU, both students and tutors wear casual clothing. After spending some time attending class and meeting both teachers and students I felt the lack of standard attire did not alter the professionalism they put across.
Whilst visiting the university I attended a practical first year physiotherapy class covering proprioception, which for my benefit was led in both Dutch and English. I also went to an international first year class (led in English) on massage. It was interesting to see the similar teaching style and set up – a tutor at the front initially demonstrating a test followed by students in pairs at plinths mirroring the test and asking any questions they had.
Throughout my time in Groningen I was paired with a 1st year physiotherapist to welcome me and show me around, this was a really good experience as it enabled me to ask questions about their course and learn how they felt about their course from a student’s perspective. I learned there were some similarities such as using online blackboard for communicating to students, but also many differences, such as: their timetables changing every week, their academic year is a lot longer than ours and is split into 4, with more shorter holidays, when compared to GCU’s 2 semesters. In Scotland, we have 7 placements but at Hanze they only get 3 placements – however they are about 4 months each! In addition, due to the lack of the NHS in the Netherlands, Health Care is mostly private, therefore it is quite common to get all 3 placements in a private setting.
I really appreciated the opportunity to get a glimpse of a physiotherapy course in another country and found it interesting to see some of the similarities and differences. I also enjoyed the chance to learn more about the culture and lifestyle in the Netherlands, through both chatting to the physiotherapy students and being shown round some of the sights of Groningen by my buddy.”