Expand your Horizon: Travel and Work!
Matthias a 28-year old occupational therapist from North Rhine-Westphalia spoke with us about his experience as a professional carer for a family in Queensland, Australia.
What is your profession and why did you decided to come to Australia with Apex?
My pleasure! I am an occupational therapist from a small town in the middle of Germany. Before I thought of coming to Australia, I was already in the Apex program with a wonderful family in America. When I was talking to another Proaupair about the program, she mentioned the Australian program to me. I immediately decided to go to Australia following my 6 months in the States.
What were your responsibilities with your Australian family?
I was there to look after a little boy, I prepared his meals, went on outings with him, played with him and took him to his therapies. But it was so much more than that. I was treated as an occupational therapist, with respect and I was asked to contribute to important decisions regarding Isaac’s therapy programs. It made me feel so valued! I attended therapies with him, to then be able to continue them at home. I was able to feed back if they were helping or if they needed to be discontinued, what my views were on the little boys’ progression and how we could tackle upcoming issues and find new strategies (for new and old problems).
I also joined Isaac at pre-school and primary school to supervise him in class. I was able to back off more and more, especially after I was involved in creating and putting into place coping strategies for Isaac so that he could enjoy school to the fullest. The teachers recognised my experience and I acted as a counsellor and occasionally a classroom aide to them. I was welcomed into the family with open arms, and I felt supported throughout my time with them.
What was the best thing about your experience in the program?
The most amazing thing happened when I went to California with my host family, I found a type of therapy that I could extend my skill set with! My host family regularly takes Isaac to California to participate in a special type of therapy called: “Play.Connect.Grow” developed by Aaron Deland. This therapy utilises many elements of a similar concept developed by Dr. Greenspan: “Floortime”. In California I also had the opportunity to meet with Susan Asay, founder and CEO of Apex. I discussed Isaacs therapy with her and the goals he was achieving and she let me know that she actually knew Dr. Jake Greenspan and she introduced me to him.
When my time in the program in Australia came to an end, instead of flying home to Germany I returned to the States. I was able to complete a six-months internship with Dr. Greenspan at his Floortime Centre.
How did your time with host families in America and Australia enhance your professional experience?
I saw lots and lots of different therapies and approaches during those two years I spent overseas in America and Australia. Being open to all these new things helped me enhance my professional skills and practice those skills. What I almost found more intriguing was that I learned a fair share of things which I would NOT do. From a professional and a personal perspective.
What’s your advice for other’s looking to gain this sort of experience?
I would highly recommend it! All the therapies, approaches and professionals you will meet will give you a huge insight into their work and philosophies which you will be able to transfer into your own work, learning new and different strategies. Maybe somebody will even be as lucky as I was and find his or her passion during his or her stay.
Moreover, in the super unlikely event that one would not learn anything for his or her profession, the opportunity for personal growth is huge! You learn a lot about yourself and you are able to recognise your own personal growth yourself. The boost of (self) awareness, confidence, the opportunity to become acquainted with a new country and its culture and people will give you so much for your own life and development. And not to forget the improvement in the English language.
My advice would be to not hesitate or be afraid to ask, be curious. I any situation and for anything! Whether it be communication or not understand during an everyday situation or therapy sessions. Other therapists will always be patient and explain things two, three or even four times. You’ll come out of it with a better understanding of why and something new learned for your own life, private as well as professional!