All posts by Virpi Haavanlammi

I am home! – Australia

Moments of NOW

Step One – Getting Grey Hair

The application process or rather called nerve-racking months were… well how should I put it… challenging. 🙂 I first heard about this wonderful opportunity to go on an international exchange to Australia August last year. I could not believe what I heard, since when I applied to my first international exchange the year before, Australia was not on the list to be applied for! Well, after getting over the first shock I was starting to be quite thrilled and already creating images of Australian in my head: sun, ambulances, kangaroos, university and the easy going lifestyle. “Wow Wow Wow, hold your horses…. now you are going a bit too fast!” I tried to control myself. 🙂

Well the first couple of months nothing really exciting happened and it was just about filling in few papers and going through an interview. More information would follow later… time was crawling… Luckily I had something else to think about while waiting for more information to come – practical training in Dumfries, Scotland, United Kingdom for three months. 🙂 The time was flying past and soon I was back in Finland getting more grey hair.

There was quite a significant amount of paper work to be done, filled in, signed and stamped for the application process and after my participation was granted, but knowing that I could help the future students with their application process made my work load all worth it! A huge thanks belongs to my school nurse and Fimlab for efficient and proficient help with my certificates! When I finally got all papers and formalities sorted out, it was only four days to due date but in any case it was time to – FINALLY – book the flight tickets!

Step two – On the Way Home

The few days before departure went super quickly, like always just before leaving. Everybody wants to see you, like I´m going away for the rest of my life -goodbyes… So extremely busy time table to visit everyone and to sort our last minute things concerning my departure like bus to airport, souvenirs from Finland to UWS, snacks for the journey… packing is not a part of my To Do List… packing has its own sector called: panic packing just few hours before “take-off”. But to keep myself sane, it is always better to keep my time table busy otherwise I would just be sitting at home panicking and losing my mind. Well practiced protocols over the years.

Panic packing in the morning went smoothly and I had more time than usually… though I was still able to miss my first local bus to the bus station into Tampere centre. While sitting in the bus to Helsinki-Vantaa airport a feeling of calmness and tranquillity filled me. I was on my way home! Flight and transition time was altogether 29 hours through London Heathrow with 3 hours of spare time spent walking around, a little shopping, people watching and relaxing. In Hong Kong I had only 20 minutes to change the terminal and to find the right gate. I can tell you that I have not been running that fast in a long time especially through the security! Only when I got to the last plane it started to come to me and realize that I was only less than 10 hours away from Australia. Just a little sleep away and few movies.

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Beautiful view over London!

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Flying somewhere over Europe or Asia.

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Sunset in Hongkong.

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I was so grateful to fly with three seats just for me! 🙂

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Already in Sydney and on my way to Campbelltown!

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Stopped for a little lunch in Campbelltown!

After the long journey half across the world and across Sydney suburbs I finally made it to my new home. Home sweet home, a cold shower, food, long chat about my journey and background with my landlord.! The next morning after a great night of sleep I woke up 6 am bright and shine in the sounds of birds chirping and singing. I look out of the window and see a palm tree and a beautiful sun rise. What a wonderful way to wake up in the other side of the world and the 29 hours travel was just a dream. I knew I was where I belonged

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View from my room window 6 am, the sun is starting to rise.

Step three – Life in Australia

The first weekend was for relaxing and getting comfortable in the new place – which for me was just more time in the Paradise. Meeting up in the University with the teachers, fixing last paper work, courses, practical and uniforms and doing some grocery shopping. Exploring the nearby area: Campbelltown and Macarthur and a little further: Bondi beach, Darling Harbour, The Rocks and I also fitted in my friend´s Baby Shower in The Entrance, couple of hours north from Sydney. The Entrance was another piece of Heaven! Such a beautiful and tranquil place!

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Getting burned and becoming a lobster at Bondi Beach

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Sydney was preparing for GayParade Festival and had beautiful lights, music and decorations all around Darling Harbour.

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People enjoying the evening at Darling Harbour.

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Full of Hearts!

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Visited Sydneys oldest brewery – The Lord Nelson Brevery Hotel at The Rocks.

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View from The Rocks to Sydney Opera House.

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The Long Jetty at The Entrance, couple of hours north from Sydney.

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Beautiful sunset in The Entrance.

On Monday the University of Western Sydney (UWS) courses started with lectures and practical: Introduction to Paramedicine, Paramedicine Practise, Obstetrics and Paediatrics, Out of Hospital Medical Care and Culture, Diversity and Health. The standard of the education is extremely high, 2.5 years old university buildings and facilities with library, shops, lunch restaurants and cafes very remarkable but still keeping the atmosphere chilled and open for new encounters, learning and different activities. Absolutely nothing to complain! And even though Australian students have to pay for their education, you can see that it is all worth it!

The courses are mostly during Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, leaving plenty of time for our interviews, collecting information and material for our thesis. And of course independent studying with online material and courses that UWS provides, not to forget studying, exploring and enjoying the target culture, nature, people, surrounding areas, towns and cities of New South Wales and hopefully also other states as well during my short period of time here in lovely Australia. Queensland is checked out from my bucket list since I went up to Sunshine Coast for Easter and I fell in love with the beaches, peacefulness, beautiful nature and sunshine.

I never had the time to visit Manly Beach when I was previously in Sydney couple of times few years ago, so of course I went to explore it and found it very nice, even though a bit touristic but still very calm, relaxing area and a big beach with a lot of activities around including stand up paddle boarding, surfing, beach volley and trekking in the Sydney Harbour National Park, not to forget all the shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and nightlife.

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Views from Circular Quay.

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On a ferry on our way to Manly Beach from Circula Quay.

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Beautiful nature, flowers and views.

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Shark Alert at Manly Beach!

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Art at Manly.

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Great views and nice weather for some trekking in the Sydney Harbour National Park.

I love bush walking, trekking and getting lost in the wilderness, because then you always find something you did not know you were even looking for! I also visited Wentworth Park greyhound races few times with my old bosses from Victoria.

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Koala Alert. & Getting lost in the bushes. Still smiling, but after couple of hours wandering in the same forest…. not so much. 🙂

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Sun goes down very quickly and I better head home while I can still see ahead. 🙂

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Wentworth Park Greyhound races.

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I have found my place!  

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Market City, Haymarket.

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Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour.

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Pancake breakfast and a good cup of black coffee in the Paradise of Sunshine Coast.

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Easter Sunday in Sunshine Coast and everybody are so relaxed.

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Wonderful beaches at Sunshine Coast.

Now that I bought a bicycle I can explore the surrounding areas even easier and get some sun and exercise at the same time! Yesterday I took the train to Sydney Central Station and cycle to Bondi beach area with the idea of spending the day under the sun relaxing since the weather forecast promised 30 degrees warm and sunny for the whole day! Though in the end I got lost (like always!) and accidentally cycled over 30 kilometres mostly up hill (well if you go up you always come down so few down hills as well!) and discovered some really stunning and intriguing beaches, gardens, parks, harbours and gorgeous living areas. So I have been keeping myself fairly busy with studying and learning but also enjoying the Australian lifestyle, weather and culture!

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On my way to city centre with cycle.

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Double Bay.

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Blackburn Cove garden and beach.

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Long way with a boat. 🙂

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Gorgeous view over the harbour to city.

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Shark Beach and Nielsen Park.

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In less than a week I will start my 5 weeks of practical in the local ambulances. 4 days in  with 12 hours shifts and 5 days off, which gives me a plenty of time to recover and learn, search more information and explore a bit more, maybe visit my friends in Melbourne and Tasmania! For the last week in Australia just before departing back to Finland I am planning to spend in Perth, Western Australia visiting my old firends and work mates.

I am quite excited and waiting forward learning more about out of hospital medical care in Australia, improve my own clinical skills and expand my knowledge about Australian medicines and administration in the ambulance environment.


Sunny regards from DownUnder,


Outside my comfort zone in Scotland

It was about time to pack my bags and start a new adventure! One year and three months was enough in Finland after more than seven years abroad. Practical training exchange programme through TAMK was my flight ticket to the world again!

I was all smiling and full of excitement packing my backpack and flying to Scotland: WORLD I AM HOME AGAIN!

My life is packed once again into a few bags. Let the journey begin!
My life is packed once again into a few bags. Let the journey begin!

Scotland from the air.
Scotland from the air.











I rented a room from a private house just outside the Dumfries town center about 30 minutes walk away and 15 minutes by bike from the Dumfries Campus (University) and Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary Hospital (DGRI) where I am working as well. The bike was a great plus, very convenient way to move around the town and also to explore the lovely Scottish nature!

The bike will be my good friend during the three months!
The bike will be my good friend during the three months!

Cycling to work to the Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary hospital!
Cycling to work to the Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary hospital!











The Dumfries Campus area is beautiful with its old buildings and gardens. So are the surrounding parks & villages.

University of West of Scotland - Dumfries Campus with its beautiful, old buildings!
University of West of Scotland – Dumfries Campus with its beautiful, old buildings!

Dumfries Campus Stone Garden.
Dumfries Campus Stone Garden.

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It is a lovely place to enjoy your lunch between lectures!
It is a lovely place to enjoy your lunch between lectures!

Nearby village just a cycle path away - Kingholm Quay.
Nearby village just a cycle path away – Kingholm Quay.

Whitesands, Dumfries.
Whitesands, Dumfries.

I started my practical training in A&E (Accidents & Emergencies). So I have learned that the best and the fastest way to learn (though probably not the easiest way) is to “jump into the river and start swimming”. A lot of questions, repetition and hands-on attitude got me through the three exciting weeks in the A&E of DGRI. Time flew and I would have liked to stay there few more weeks, if not the whole three months! I got also an opportunity to have two days with the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) which was extremely instructive. The first three weeks really showed me that I am in the right field of study!

Second placement is for four weeks in Ward 15 – Paediatric Ward. Again it feels like I have to start from zero – the routines are quite different from ward to ward. With children and especially with babies all the procedures and medical nursing are quite different compared to adults. But I am enjoying my time so far and I have a lot to learn. Just to keep my eyes and mind open and ask a few more questions!

My third placement will be in the Birthing Suite for two weeks and the last three weeks (4th placement) will be in the Mental Health Care Ward. I have truly intriguing times ahead!

The best way to learn is outside my comfort zone!

Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary Hospital from the distance.
Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary Hospital from the distance.

View from the DGRI Hospital over the town of Dumfries and the mountain of Criffel.
View from the DGRI Hospital over the town of Dumfries and the mountain of Criffel.









Since the working shifts have been more or less 12 hour shifts at a time, I have had quite many full days off from work. When I am not working in the hospital I walk, run and cycle a lot. I have participated in the Scottish Classical Dance lessons, which was quite fun and believe me or not required quite a bit of concentration to remember all the steps!

I also enjoy a coffee with my new friends or just go to Starbucks by myself for a cup of black filter coffee, piece of lemon cake and with a great book! Visiting the nearby castles and ruins of old buildings, climbing the mountain Criffel (506 meters high), day off in Edinburgh and the chilly and colourfull Autumn are all a part of the fantastic cultural and educational experience during my three months here in Dumfries, Scotland!

Here are some pictures along the way:

Part of the cultural experience is to try local food, so Haggis (a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck – heart, liver and lungs-  minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach) is on my bucket list!


Enjoy your experience abroad!

Greetings from Scotland,