Welcome to my Maltese adventure! It’s been an amazing ride, and definitely one of my life’s best decisions and craziest experiences. Totally recommending this programme for anyone who’s interested! Let’s get cracking!
So…. I’s my first time abroad… alone… EVER. I have only visited Sweden and Estonia when travelling outside Finland, so this has totally been an jump into the unknown. My choice to go on an exchange to Malta was a mixture of curiosity towards the southern European culture and learning practices, the need for a total change of scenery and people, and also a small wish, that I could experience some warm sunshine after a grimy winter in Finland. I’m happy to admit, that I got exactly what I wished for, and a whole lot more!
The day I landed to Malta, the weather was amazing, +20 degrees in January during the day. I was so excited and happy I couldn’t believe it. For the first time I saw the big cactus trees and southern plants in nature, and saw the Mediterranian sea. I got to experience the open and helpful nature of the Maltese people pretty soon, when getting into the bus for the first time, three people started advicing us without even asking. Also one day I had my hands full and was struggling with my glove; so a stranger looked at me and put on my glove for me without asking or saying a word. It was funny and totally unexpected, thank you, strange Maltese dude!
The temperature at night surprised me completely, because one it got dark, the temperature dropped to about 9 degrees. In an extremely humid climate that feels so so so cold. Also, the houses don’t have any heating, because they are built for the hot summer, so at night I had to sleep with 2 blankets to keep myself warm. February is considered winter in Malta, and I can see why. But it got better quite quickly.
My placements for physiotherapy practise have been
- Musculoskeletal outpatients unit – St Luke’s Hospital
- Children Development Assesment Centre (CDAU), St Luke’s Hospital
- Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Center (SAMOC), Mater Dei
In musculoskeletal ward I got to assess, treat and observe patients who had various musculoskeletal issues. I had a lot of shoulder and knee patients, and I also got to see some ankle, back, neck and general mobility cases. For one day I visited the hydrotherapy pool. I had an amazing supervisor and got so much experience by going out of my confort zone and dealing with the patients first with my supervisor, and then on my own. I was happy to get self-confidence and reassurance.
In the children’s ward the patients were mostly cases with cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome or some other syndrome, spina bifida, or children with general developmental delay. We visited the Helen Keller special school for severely disabled children/adolecents in Qrendi also every week to assess and do therapy with the students. The childer were all very adorable, and the physiotherapy with them is done always through play and games. We had nice therapy rooms full of toys and equipment, and I believe the children really liked the fun excersises we came up with.
In SAMOC we had 2 general cancer wards, haematology ward, palleative care unit, children’s ward and the outpatients ward, that we worked in. I got to experience the ward physiotherapy, and also treat patients in the outpatients unit with lymphaodema. We did complete draining therapy manually and using a PCT machine, that passively inflates a external sleeve, to get the lympf liquid moving. I got to perform manual lymph drainage on a few patients of “my own”, do measurements of the upper limb and try some assessments as well. For a few times I had a survivors gym group to instruct, that was a lot of fun and I connected with the people well! For a good-bye and thank you, some of my patients gave me gifts, which really moved me and made me extremely grateful. After work I went to the beach every day to swim and sunbathe… Can’t get better than that!!!
The work hours for me were from 8 am till 2 pm, so only 6 hours. Maltese have short work days, and because the physiotherapy is free, sometimes patients don’t bother to come, and you end up with a lot of free time on your hands. So the system is a bit different compared to Finland’s. As what comes to the physiotherapy, I think it is mostly the same in Finland as well. The Maltese university students have a 4 year degree in physiotherapy to get the bachelors degree, whereas in Finland we only have 3,5 years. The Maltese have a very good education system in physiotherapy in my opinion, they have a lot of testing, practice and training. When they graduate, the physios working for the government will do a 5 year long rotation, where they work for 6 months in a certain department, and then switch. This way every physio gets experience in all major areas of physiotherapy, f.ex. children, neurology, musculoskeletal, geriatry, and so on. I think this system would benefit many in Finland as well.
In my spare time I liked to adventure around the island; Malta is a very very small country, but there are many amazing places to see. We got to go on hikes on Sundays with a fun tour guide for only 3,5€, that covered the busrides there and back, and hiking was a fun way to spend the day, see rare sights and make new friends! I also participated to many of the offical ESN – groups fun activities, including scavenger hunting in the capitol Valletta, speed dating in the University, and a full weekend tirp with a big Erasmus group to the Malta’s sister island, Gozo. I made a big bunch of friends from all over the world!! And there was always someone to text and go out with!
I also got to participate in the University of Malta’s Student’s Fest, which is a annual, big musical made by the university students. This year we depicted the Little Mermaid, with a little twist. There was a couple of hundred people participating, and I got the opportunity to perform in the main chorus. We practiced a lot, and it all was worth it in the end, because the finished product was amazing! We had 4 shows in total, and there I got to get to know many Maltese students and see part of their University experience!
The night life in Malta is crazy and so fun. Paceville is the most popular place to go have a good time; it’s a small area full of bars and nightclubs, and it doesn’t cost anything to go in to the bars. And the drinks are so cheap!! You can get a beer for 1 € and cocktails for 3,90€, and usually there are people handing out free drink tickets outside the bars. There are always people having a good time there, and you always bump into some people you know! And there are always some student parties around, you wont be bored, I swear!
Though there are some problems and things to grow accustomed to for example not being able to drink tap water, everything being late from buses to meetings, almost dying every day due to the crazy driving manners of the people, and LACK OF OAT BREAD AND GOOD VARIETY OF PICK AND MIX CANDY, Malta is a great place to do your exchange in. The people, the extremely active ESN-group, very professional physio supervisors and great, historical places to visit, made the experience one that I will always cherish. I truly loved the experience, 3 months was way too little for me!!