Savonia-article: Learning experiences from summer school of Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, the Netherlands

We visited the Hanze University of Applied Sciences 5. – 9.6.2023. Hanze University is an international Health Care School in the Netherlands. Picture 1. shows the information board of the summer school. At summer 2023 Hanze Summer school offered three intensive studying weeks with main theme of worldwide challenges in the healthcare. We participated the second week of Summer school. In addition to our Finnish students, Canadian and American students also studied at the Hanze Summer school. From the Savonia there were four students and one teacher participating the Summer school. The visit there was part of the Savonia’s course: “Working and Studying in international environment”. Therefore, the visit was part of Master´s Degree Programme in Rehabilitation. We were able to apply for funding from the Erasmus program for studying abroad. This was a great benefit for an adult student.

  1. picture. This view started Hanze’s summer school

Studying in international environment develops communication skills…

Netherlands is part of Western Europe. The neighboring countries of the Netherlands are Belgium to the south and Germany to the east. The North Sea is the border in the west and north. Land areas of Netherlands nearly 26 % is below the sea level. Netherlands population is 17,8 million. (Wikipedia 2023a.)

Groningen is the capital city of Groningen province.  There are about 235 000 inhabitants, it is the sixth largest city in the Netherlands. Groningen is the largest city of the northern part of the Netherlands. It is also the economic and culture center. Groningen was established more than 950 years ago. (Wikipedia 2023b.) From a student’s point of view Groningen was a refreshing experience. It is a lively and beautiful city with a ratio of 1 in 4 people being a student (Hanze University 2023). Hanze UAS have approximately 28000 student and 3200 employees, about 8,1 % of students are international. (Wikipedia 2023c.) In picture 2, the school´s main entrance, the name of the school. There were an opportunity to get to know other students and participate in numerous Groningen student events.

Studying in international environment was interesting but hard, especially at first. Foreign language and other students spoke English natively, so it was difficult to follow the conversations. In addition, the other students were also of different ages. After a while, it was easier to keep up with the speech and discussions. The other students took us along nicely and patiently repeated themselves when necessary. Study days included lectures, group work and field trip. Debate was the teaching method used in the summer school. After the field trips, students had to present development ideas for the operation of the study visit object. The development idea had to defended in the debate.

2. picture. Hanze University of Applied Sciences (Hanzehogeschool Groningen) is the largest technical and vocational university on the northern Netherlands. It offers various Bachelor and Master programs. (Wikipedia 2023c)

…and gives a chance to strength professional expertise!

The summer school week focused on the Health of the Future. The Dutch health care system has the same challenges as in Finland: there is a shortage of workers and the costs of health care are high. We studied intensively discussing the health challenges of the future and thinking about possible solutions to these challenges. The students were given a future challenge to solve as a learning task: how would it be possible to give people five more healthy years of life and at the same time reduce health disparities by 30 percent.

Prevention of problems became the topic of discussion during the week in the speeches of international student colleagues. It was interesting to follow and participate in the discussion, where the perspectives came from students living in different societies. The subject is challenging even when studied in Finnish, let alone when studying the subject in a foreign language. We saw this kind of study as a great opportunity to develop our professional expertise.

Field trips to local companies Jimmys and ECEZG supplemented the learning

Jimmy’s is a community youth center for 12-27 years old. Young people get support for, among other things, education, problems related to job search and problems occurring at work, and loneliness. Jimmy’s has three goals: to prevent loneliness, to provide peer support and to give young people the opportunity to learn new skills. The aim is to reduce loneliness by providing a safe place to practice social skills with Jimmy’s employees and other young people who visit Jimmy. The youth also get peer support from each other. At Jimmy, there is a ‘low threshold’ for young people to discuss confidentially or ask about all topics related to young people’s lives. At Jimmy, mentors support young people in learning new skills. It is important that young people decide for themselves the things they want to do or experience and do them. With these principles, Jimmy’s activities prevent the exclusion of young people from society. In picture 3. Jimmys street advertising sing, the sing attracts visitors to Jimmy´s. (Jimmy´s publication date unknown.)

3. picture. Jimmy’s advertises itself as a place where young people can ask questions and come up with ideas openly.

The principles followed in Jimmy are supported by Nieminen (2018). Social rehabilitation can be a measure to prevent marginalization, in which case a person can get support for their problems before the problems get worse. The goal of social rehabilitation should be to improve functioning. It is important to support the social functioning of young people, because they are expected to have a long working career. Doing paid work prevents marginalization and increases inclusion in society. Toiviainen (2019) brings out the importance of guiding young people from the perspective of peer support. Supporting young people to get peer support and to function as a member of the community prevents marginalization. When supporting young people, the importance of social relationships and the effects of social and cultural issues must be taken into account.

Another field trip was headed to the ECEZG (Expertise Center for Primary Care Groningen). ECEZG is a center where therapy (physiotherapy, manual therapy and arthrokinesiology), scientific research and education come together. ECEZG has a threefold mission: providing high-quality physiotherapy and manual therapy, conducting practice-oriented scientific research in primary care and promoting knowledge sharing. In practice, the duration of their research or treatment is determined individually. At ECEZG clinic there is not standard times. The necessary time is reserved for each customer. The mission statement at ECEZG’s in to “Prove the techniques that are used and use the techniques that are proven”. In picture 4. ECEZG logo from their website.

4. picture. ECEZG values ​​researched and up-to-date information.  (

The study visits complemented our learning in the summer school. It was instructive to make observations in the places visited and it was instructive to participate in the discussions after the visits. Jimmy´s seemed to be quite similar that youth center in Finland. In Finland youth center idea is maybe little lighter than Jimmy´s. In Finland youth center is more place to spend time. Jimmy´s give more support for life.

A field trip to a company in the field of physiotherapy brought out a very customer-oriented orientation to work. ECEZG’s research orientation convinced us students of the strong Evidence Based Practice activity. According to Hopkins Medicine (2023), the foundation of clinical practice is evidence-based practice. Integrating EBP into clinical practice improves quality of care and patient outcomes. The goal of EBP is to transfer the latest and best researched information into clinical practice. EBP helps staff make decisions based on researched information.

Watching out for cyclists kept our brains in a state of concentration

The memorable sight of our educational trip were bicycles and cyclists. The population of the Netherlands is approximately 17.8 million. However, they have 23 million bicycles! There are even bicycle-only roads in the Netherlands where cars are visitors. In 2018, more than 25% of trips were made by bicycle. More than 33% of trips of less than 7.5 kilometers were made by bicycle. (Tennant 2022.) Cycling is a common way of getting from one place to another: Employees go to work on bicycles, parents take their children to care or school by bike. The child seat can be in the front or back of the bicycle or even in both places. In picture 5. bike are stored in tight-looking bike park near workplaces, trains station and schools. Cycling is healthy daily exercise. Cycling extends to Dutch people of all ages.

Cardiovascular disease is worldwide leading cause of death. Establish a healthy lifestyle at a young age is that’s why important. Healthy lifestyle included cardiorespiratory fitness and sleep habits. Decreased cardiorespiratory fitness and decreased sleep duration in young adults is a serious health issue. (Fernström, Fenberg & Hurtig-Wennlöf, 2020.) Cycling is good way to train cardiorespiratory fitness. Cycling probably is one way to get more healthy years.

5. picture. A cyclist picking up her bike from a tight-looking bike park.

The greatest support ant the best discussions came from our own Finnish student group

6. picture. The top Finnish team!

Although the study days were long, we also had time to get to know the city of Groningen. Groningen is a small and old city. Almost everything is within walking distance. Several evenings we gathered with a Finnish group to eat dinner. We found great places to eat. The food was good. Beer was also available. Gluten-free food was also very available, although you had to look for places where you could get gluten-free food. The buildings are old and fine, the streets are narrow and people move either by bike or on foot, only rarely by car. There are several nice parks in the middle of the city.

The study days were intense and provoked a lot of thought. Studying and conversing in English was challenging. In the evenings, it was nice to discuss thoughts in one’s native language. The mind processes things at night. We slept really soundly after hectic days.

We recommend participating in such a course. Overall the experience was great. It is good to get to know other cultures. Learning is not always easy. Sometimes you have to go into the discomfort zone to learn completely new things. In picture 6. there is our top Finnish team, all Finnish participants in a group photo.


Eini Tikkanen, Masters Students of Savonia University of Applied Sciences

Harri Ruotsalainen, Masters Students of Savonia University of Applied Sciences


Fernström Maria, Fernberg Ulrika, Hurtig-Wennlöf Anita. The importance of cardiorespiratory fitness and sleep duration in early CVD prevention: BMI, resting heart rate and questions about sleep patterns are suggested in risk assessment of young adults, 18-25 years : The cross-sectional lifestyle, biomarkers and atherosclerosis (LBA) study. BMC Public Health. 2020 Nov 16;20(1):1715. doi: 10.1186/s12889-020-09801-3. PMID: 33198684; PMCID: PMC7667815. Referenced 11.6.2023.

Hanze University 2023. Hanze Summer School Flyer 2023. Received by e-mail. Flyer. Referenced 26.7.2023.

Hopkins Medicine 2023. Evidence-based practice. Referenced 1.7.2023.

Jimmy´s publication date unknown. Community youth center in Groningen. Referenced 11.6.2023.

Nieminen, Ari. 2018. Sosiaalisen kuntoutuksen määritelmä, kentät ja mahdollisuudet. Teoksessa Kostilainen Harri, Nieminen Ari, & Böckerman Heidi (toim.) Sosiaalisen kuntoutuksen näkökulmia ja mahdollisuuksia. Diakonia-ammattikorkeakoulu, 13-20.

Tennant, Callum. 2022. The World´s cycling nation: How the Netherlands redesigned itself as a country fit for bikes. Euronews website. Published 17.9.2022. Referenced 11.6.2023.

Toiviainen, Sanna. 2019. Suhteisia elämänpolkuja – yksilöiden elämänhallintaa: Koulutuksen ja työn marginaalissa olevien nuorten toimijuus ja ohjaus. Helsinki: Nuorisotutkimusseura Nuorisotutkimusverkosto, 11-12.

Wikipedia 2023a. Netherlands. Updated 10.6.2023. Referenced 11.6.2023.

Wikipedia 2023b. Groningen. Updated 10.6.2023. Referenced 11.6.2023.

Wikipedia 2023c. Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Updated 30.5.2023. Referenced 11.6.2023.