Moving Abroad to Work as an Occupational Therapist

Hi All! I am Jena, you may know me as the social media lead of SPOT Europe. I have just finished my pre-registration master’s at the University of Derby in England. I moved from Canada to complete my master’s and was exited to return home after 2 years away from amazing maple syrup, my family and friends, and views like this!

However, in the transition of moving home I have learned LOADS about moving abroad to work as an OT. While some of it is Canada specific, it can all be transferred to other countries.

MY TOP TIPS FOR MOVING ABROAD AS AN OT

1. Check what immigration policies are like for OTs 

This is easily the most boring part of the process. But, before you go through the process of applying for jobs and talking with employers make sure you will be able to move to this country and work! This is particularly important if you plan to move out of the European Union. It stinks to feel like you’ve wasted time and a dream on moving to a country that immigrating to is really hard or impossible!

2. Check the WFOT certification

Some countries require that all OTs attend a WFOT certified school, some need more, and some do not require WFOT certification. Find out what certifications the programme you attended have and if they are compatible with the country that you wish to migrate to. You can check all of those things here: https://www.wfot.org/programmes/education/wfot-approved-education-programmes .

3. Read the OT regulating body’s webpage AND CONTACT THEM

Almost every country has a group that makes sure OTs working in that country are properly trained. If you are interested in moving to a country, just google that country and occupational therapy/ergotherapie. I read the Canadian OT’s webpage on internationally educated occupational therapists over and over. However, I still got far more information when I e-mailed the representative. She was able to discuss with me things like what I could do prior to graduation to best prepare myself for working in Canada. She also gave me a few tips and tricks for the application process that were so helpful! It can be tempting to do things online, but speaking with a person involved is so helpful!

4. Be Prepared

After making sure you have a full understanding of what you need to do to get a license to practice OT in your new country, make sure you are ready to do all the steps that are required. Some preparation may be required. For example, in Canada and the USA you need to write a national exam and it is important to be ready for this to do well and pass!

5. Make a Budget and Start Saving!

Everyone’s migration will be different, so take a good look at your circumstances and make a budget. Will you need to move into an apartment before you get your first pay cheque? Do you need to pay to write an exam? Will you need to pay for a visa? How much will a plane cost? What about transporting all of your things to your new home? All of these things cost money and although it’s not a lot of fun, it will make you feel much better once you have arrived in your new home! Plus allocate some money to do fun things in your new home!!

6. Be Patient or Be Flexible

Some countries will be easy to immigrate to and work as an OT, some will be more complicated and take more time. If you are set on a location that takes a little while, be patient. Follow all the steps as best you can. If you’re like me and you’re not patient be prepared to be flexible. Either be flexible about your location and pick a different country to explore while you wait. Or be flexible about your job! Sometimes OT assistant jobs or jobs in a related field can be just as rewarding and will allow you to explore and live in a new country with less paper work! It’s up to you which route you want to go, but recognize that you will need to be patient or flexible.

7. Discover and Sell Your International Self!

Although it can be scary to apply for jobs in another country remember that you are bringing something unique and hard to come by! Use SPOT or another OT Facebook group to connect with OTs from the country you are hoping to immigrate to. Use these resources to highlight the differences and what potentially unique perspectives or ideas you can introduce to a service. Show how being an international OT will ADD to a service and its users! There are loads of conferences and online forums to help you get a good grasp on international OT and make informed choices!

Upcoming International Activities in Amsterdam!

COHEHRE event: November 4th-6th

“THE ETHICS IN BUILDING
SUSTAINABLE RELATIONSHIPS WITH COMMUNITY PARTNERS IN EDUCATION”

Check out the Cohere Academy which facilitates international conversation amongst several health care students! It’s a great time to swap ideas and get a feel for what OT may look like in other countries! Check it out here: http://www.cohehre.com/index.php/calendar/.

International Mobility Week: November 6th-8th

Another opportunity is the International Mobility week. This weeks theme is looking at marginalised groups in a range of settings! Find out more here: http://www.cohehre.com/index.php/event/1235/ or stay updated on our Facebook page!

The FAB Program- Connecting OT students from Finland, Austria & Belgium

Hello, I’m Tom Pauwaert from Belgium and I’m in my final year studying OT and got the opportunity to join the FAB program. 

So what is the FAB program?

The FAB project is a very unique project because it’s the only joint degree at bachelor level in Europe. It’s a joint program in the last semester of your study as an OT with approximately 20 students in total and 12 teachers from Metropolia University in Finland, FH Campus Wien in Austria and Artevelde University College in Ghent. It consists of 6 modules.

The first one was in Belgium in December, where we went on an urban exploration and got divided into groups of 5 to explore a district in Ghent. In this exploration we talked to a lot of people from different nationalities and asked about their occupation. On Friday every group gave a presentation about their district in a creative way. 

With this way of teaching rather than sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher, we could teach our fellow students about the key concepts like:

-Urbanization & Community Development

-Gentrification & Inclusive design

-Occupational justice

-Transformation through occupation

-Occupation consciousness of the districts.

In February there was a week in Helsinki, Finland.

There, the theme of the week was module 2: “the future of OT by 2030”. There were really broad themes such as technology, internationalization, demographic changes and participation for working life. The brainstorming sessions were about where and what OT’s will do in the future. It was fascinating to see the different perspectives from every group. Each group presented what the emerging roles might be in the future.

After the week in Helsinki all the students are doing an internship abroad for 12 weeks in module 3. In my case, I’m currently doing an internship in neurology in the Donauspital in Vienna. All the students are doing module 4: Health Promotion at the university that is responsible for them during the internship. There we are working in small groups about health prevention and health promotion. During you’re internship you get time to write your bachelor thesis, that’s the 5th module.

In June we will have the final week module 6 of the FAB project in Vienna. Here we will go further into urban exploration, building up on the knowledge we achieved in Belgium.

 What was your overall experience of the program?

In my case, this project has been an outstanding experience so far. This cooperation is beneficial for your personal development as an OT but also learning about the cultural differences between the countries and in fields which OT’s work. In little groups during the week you get to know everybody from the FAB project really good and we’re becoming one big family.

This project will grow in the future and I would recommend it! It has shown me that during this week you get motivated by the teamwork. After every week I come home inspired and ready to go further in my development as an OT! 

If you have a further question you can reach me at:

Instagram: tpauwie