Go Global: Expanding Horizons in Healthcare


Third-year Physiotherapy student Tina Tay has always enjoyed travelling and learning about different cultures. She put her trimester break to good use through SIT’s Overseas Exposure Programme (OEP), broadening her horizons and building her professional competency.

At the end of 2023, while many students were looking forward to enjoying their year-end break, Tina Tay had different plans. She and five other students from Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)’s Health and Social Sciences Cluster had signed up for SIT’s Overseas Exposure Programme (OEP) and were heading to ZHAW School of Health Sciences in Switzerland for winter school.


Tina Tay has enriched her cultural understanding and professional skills through SIT's Overseas Exposure Programme in Switzerland. (Photo: Tina Tay)

Exceeding Her Expectations

For Tina, a key deciding factor in enrolling in ZHAW International Winter School was that, unlike other mutual exchange programmes with other universities, ZHAW brings together students from all over the world to observe how cultural differences influence different healthcare systems.

“I wasn’t just learning about another culture and healthcare system. Through ZHAW Winter School, I had the chance to mix with students from eight other countries and learn about their countries’ healthcare systems,” Tina said.


Tina (first row, 3rd from right) with international students who attended ZHAW School of Health Sciences in Switzerland. (Photo: Tina Tay)
“I’m not sure whether other programmes would allow me to be exposed to so many different cultures and viewpoints in just two weeks,” Tina shared.

Heading into winter school, there were many reasons for Tina to be excited, not least because this was her first trip out of Asia, and she would be gaining many new experiences and making friends from all over the world.

Her experience, she shares, was even better than she could have imagined.

“I knew we would be interacting with students from different countries, but I thought that would be only during class. As I was staying in a hostel with the other SIT students and international students, we spent much more time together. Outside of class, we would buy food, cook and eat together. Through all these interactions, we got to know a lot more about each other,” Tina shared.

From an academic perspective, Tina appreciates how the winter school programme went beyond just classroom lectures to include visits to rehabilitation centres and interactive classroom exercises.

“Our lecturers encouraged us to have active discussions and organised games that helped us understand more about each other’s cultures and how it plays out in our country’s healthcare systems.”


Lecturers facilitated discussions that helped students like Tina explore how cultural backgrounds influence healthcare systems around the world. (Photo: Tina Tay)

Developing Interprofessional and Intercultural Collaborative Skills

While the course may have only lasted two weeks, Tina feels that the depth of learning she experienced has profoundly impacted how she views her future role as a healthcare practitioner.

“The course was structured in a way that created many opportunities for interacting and collaborating with others from different cultural backgrounds and professions, such as midwives and physician assistants. This experience has taught me to be more sensitive to how different professions bring with them different sets of expertise. It has also made me more conscious about how differences in culture and training can impact the way people work together in a group setting,” Tina shared.

For the immediate future, however, Tina has been inspired by her time at ZHAW to make the most of her learning opportunities at SIT.

“This experience was timely as I am about to start my clinical practice next trimester. In Singapore, we already have the experience of working in multicultural teams. So, I look forward to seeing how I can take what I have learned to improve how we work with one another, especially when it comes to improving patient care.”

Broadening Her Global Views

Beyond the professional impact of the ZHAW Winter School programme, Tina also feels that she has been able to benefit from a personal level.

“I observed many cultural differences during my time at ZHAW, such as how the Swiss valued patients’ rights to maintain their chosen habits like smoking and drinking during rehabilitation even if they may be harmful. What was more striking was the one similarity that all the different countries and participants shared – that we all wanted to provide the best care for our patients,” she explained.

“The experience helped open my mind and broaden my horizons to realise that the reasons behind many of the shortcomings of healthcare systems are often a lot more complex than they seem on the surface. It has also taught me to appreciate what we do well in Singapore more,” Tina said.

Having thoroughly enjoyed her OEP, Tina is keen for other SIT students to also benefit from the experience.

“It was an unforgettable and once-in-a-lifetime experience where you get exposed to other professions and cultures outside of Singapore. I highly recommend anyone interested to sign up.”

Applications for SIT's OEP Summer School programmes are open. Visit the OEP webpage for more details.

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