Preparing for gold
Every four years, nations across the Pacific Ocean gather to compete at the Pacific Games.
As part of ACU’s short-term international study experience, and backed by the Commonwealth Government through the New Colombo Plan (NCP), health science students had the opportunity to travel to the Solomon Islands for a two-week placement.
It’s a program that’s been running since 2021, alongside the Solomon Islands National Institute of Sport (SINIS), for students to gain work experience in an area relating to their degree – such as nutrition science, exercise science, psychology and physiotherapy.
Among the contingent was third-year Bachelor of Exercise Science and Bachelor of Nutrition Science student Mikayla Okladnikov, who praised the experience.
“It was beyond incredible and unlike anything we would have been able to experience in Australia,” Mikayla said.
“Over the course of two weeks, four other students and I completed placements at the Solomon Islands National Institute of Sport.
“I helped to deliver a variety of strength and conditioning, gym-based, and skills development sessions for a few of the national sport teams. To have that chance to participate in and lead such sessions was extremely rewarding, and it allowed us to put our learning into action under the guidance of industry professionals.”
Beyond the physicality
The opportunity to travel to a foreign country allowed the students to not only work in their related study field, but also to experience an entirely different culture.
Fourth-year Bachelor of Physiotherapy student Ida Ajdari said it gave her an appreciation of the factors driving every athlete to excellence.
“The most rewarding aspect of my placement in the Solomon Islands was the immersive experience in the local culture and sports,” Ida said.
“Being actively involved in the day-to-day lives of the wonderful people there was truly enriching.
“Witnessing the athletes’ training sessions firsthand and working closely with them allowed me to appreciate the depth of humility and hard work embedded in both the athletes and SINIS employees.
“As for the most significant lesson I learned, it was the realisation that behind every athletic performance there is a story of resilience, hard work and a deep connection to community.
“This experience reinforced the importance of cultural sensitivity and understanding in the field of physiotherapy, emphasising that effective care goes beyond physical techniques – it involves appreciating the holistic context in which individuals live and strive for excellence.”
Experience for the real world
Both Ida and Mikayla agreed the experience gave them skills, confidence and connections which will prove highly beneficial once they graduate from uni.
“The hands-on experience of working with local physiotherapists and helping national athletes prepare for a major sporting event significantly enhanced my clinical skills,” Ida said.
“The exposure to diverse cases and cultural nuances broadened my perspective and provided a unique set of challenges, preparing me for a more versatile and adaptive approach in my future career.
“It also served as a platform for networking and collaboration with professionals in the field, both locally and internationally.
“These connections are invaluable as I look forward to building a career in physiotherapy. Not only this, but you can use this experience as a talking point in other physiotherapy roles.”
Just go for it
Following her Solomon Islands experience, Mikayla offered some enthusiastic advice for anyone considering studying at ACU.
“Go for it!” she said. “The opportunities and experiences offered by ACU, and the support provided by the entire ACU community, is truly one of a kind.
“Your time at uni will be challenging, exciting, but most of all, rewarding.”
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