Winter School: Zurich University

Janet Brooks, Ed.D, OT:
Each January, the Zurich University of Applied Sciences hosts six weeks of international exchange they call a “mobility week” (originally focused on mobility within Switzerland, who’s three major OT schools are conducted in Swiss German, Italian or French ). Week two offers a dedicated OT only, conducted in English week of symposia, faculty workshops, think tanks and exchanges and student projects. Faculty and students from the following countries participated in this year’s program: Philippines, Great Britain, Sweden, France, Netherlands, Turkey, Serbia, Istanbul, Switzerland, Finland, Belgium, Austria, Mongolia, Kenya, United States. Tufts University’s Department of Occupational Therapy has had the privilege of participating since 2018.

I enjoy providing a lecture each year as well as participating in the think tank, faculty workshops and student project facilitation and assessment. In 2019 and 2020, eight to ten students per year joined me in person. In 2021 and this year we had at least one brave student willing to wake in the middle of the night ( US time) to participate virtually ( Swiss time) throughout the week. This year Siarah Jones left quite an impression with her international peers and faculty. She was a great representative from Tufts. I’m so happy she is willing to share her experience.

Zurich, Switzerland

Siarah A. Jones, OT Student:
Attending the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) Winter School has revitalized my perception of my professional identity and sparked a need to push harder for visibility. The theme of the week was “Occupational Therapists’ Professional Identity: Contributing to the visibility of the profession.” Going into the program I had several questions looming around my mind, some of which were: How is visibility of the field being discussed on a global scale? How are OT professionals integrated into and connected with their communities? What can we learn from OT student’s and professionals from other countries, or in what ways can we better support our peers? Throughout the week many of my question were answered through presentations in a symposium, by keynote speakers, individual reflections, and through a small group project promoting occupational therapy to stakeholders.

One of my greatest takeaways from the week is that occupational therapy is dynamic. Being in such a progressive and evolving field, we must constantly adapt our outreach and advocacy for the profession. We must create interest in our audience and present ourselves in a way that is exciting. During individual assignments I spent a handful of time doing personal reflection, where I learned to think of my professional identity as a present thing. So often, we may get caught up reflecting on things of the past that shaped our identity or speak about it in such a passive voice. This week encouraged me to be more present with my identity and be appreciative for the attributes that shine today.

Lastly, this week challenged me to acknowledge privilege in my identity. As a Black woman who has been marginalized, I often forget that privilege lies within some of my other identities. As an occupational therapy student in the United States, I have learned that I have more access to things in my education that students in other countries desire. After reading this I challenge you to acknowledge the privilege in your identity and find a way to take more action using your identity.

            This is all that I will leave you with because I still want your mind to wander. I want you to imagine yourself on the journey with me and see where your professional identity lies and how you push for visibility.
Thank you for reading!

Siarah Jones


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