Greetings everyone. My name is Iva Hendelja, I’m 21 years old and currently on my third and final year of Occupational therapy at the University of Applied Health Sciences in Zagreb, Croatia, which is also the only university to provide a 3 year OT program. Unfortunately, here in Croatia, you can only study OT at a bachelor’s level since there are no master’s or PhD programs yet.
My journey began around 4 years ago when I had to decide which university I would apply to. I had always known that I wanted to work with and for people in challenging situations. So OT sounded like a great fit for me. And it sure was.
I vividly remember my first week of OT. I was so motivated and felt like I really do belong in this profession. And luckily enough, this feeling continues to this day.
What I love the most about studying OT is the fact that we have a lot of practical classes where you can work one-on-one with clients and really understand what they are going through. This way you can successfully build your skills as a future professional and address each person’s needs. My favourite class was Prosthetics and Orthotics, where we had the chance to visit a factory which was constructing prosthetics from scratch. It is great seeing how an important factor measurements is but the best part was actually making a mold of each other’s feet with plaster (gypsum).
Another interesting practical class was Ergonomics in OT where we were measuring if the ramps were suitable for people in wheelchairs, if the parking spaces for clients with disability were made in accordance with the Croatian regulations, etc. We, also, had a chance to ride in a wheelchair to see how hard it is for people with disabilities in their everyday life – like going to buy groceries in a local store or borrowing a book from the library.
What is more, once in a semester we go for a few weeks to a hospital, elderly home or rehabilitation centre to learn about occupational therapy in that institution. There we have a chance to work with clients. Personally, one of the most interesting experiences was going to a rehabilitation centre where we had a chance to work with people with spinal injuries.
Through three years of study we attend 42 different classes. We aquire a lot of knowledge – from OT basics to specific things like rheumatology or difficulty in sensory professing. This makes us well prepared for the real world profession!
I, also, want to point out that although studying in Croatia is free, you will need to pay a fee in order to proceed your studies if you have failed a class.
Nevertheless, our University gives you a chance to grow as both a student and a person by Erasmus program, which is basically a student exchange program. One may take classes at another Uni in a European country for minimum 2 months (and maximum 12). By doing so you provide the same opportunity for a foreign student to study in Croatia. It is a very rewarding experience! Furthermore we are quite often given the chance to attend conferences and seminars thanks to the student council which is responsible for organising them.
Currently, I’m writing my final paper to finish off my studies and right after I’ll be looking for an intership, which is mandatory and lasts 12 months! I have to apply to different settings in order to have a chance to do it but I know that the trouble is gonna be worth it! After that I will be taking a state exam for officially getting my OT licence ! My wish is to work with younger people, but I would be happy to work anywhere, as long as I’m working as an OT.
I’m always happy to talk about OT in Croatia and learn about OT in other countries. So if you have any more questions you can contact me via email: email@example.com