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I applied for SEP because I have been involved in this Pharmaceutical Students Exchange Programme at least for three years. First I helped out SEP students, then I became LEO, and, after that, I was elected Student Exchange Officer of APEF Portugal. So, after being LEO in 2006, and after being SEO in 2007, the time came to take the gauntlet, and be me, a student, learning from the other side of the Student Exchange Programme. Throughout the programme, I learned not only about pharmacy but also about people. I was placed in the pharmaceutical industry in Riga, the capital city of Latvia, for the summer of 2008. I spent more than one month exploring the land. Nowadays I look back and think about my time in Latvia as one of the best experiences of my life. From the beginning I was placed with a friend. She and I adventured together, which we learned was better than being alone. As we arrived in Riga, Annet, SEO of Latvia, picked us up at the airport and drove us to our dormitory. Upon arrival we met a Polish girl that was also in Riga for SEP. She helped us out for our first day in Latvia. Her help was important; otherwise it would have been impossible to buy anything to eat, as even looking for some milk was a struggle. Everything was written in Latvian without any translation. I attended practise during my four week stay. My Portuguese friend, Carlos Alves, and I had to wake up every morning at 7 a.m. and took more than an hour bus ride to arrive at Grindex. Grindex is the leading pharmaceutical company in the Baltic States. It was a pleasure to practise in Quality Control. Everyone in the company was nice and polite to us. They taught us lots of useful knowledge about the pharmaceutical industry. We met some other students from other countries; they were also attending SEP in Riga but in community pharmacy. They came from Hungary, Czech Republic, and Poland. We spent the whole rainy August in Riga, but, with the Latvian students from the local student association, we travelled around. They organized two weekends for us, one at the beach side and one other at the country side. In this month of August we travelled a lot: Portugal and Hungary. We went to Vilnius (Lithuania), Tallinn (Estonia), Helsinki (Finland), Stockholm (Sweden), and London (UK). As you can read, we worked during the week, and then used the weekends for exploring new countries and cultures. After this successfully exchange programme, I feel good about the entire experience. I as a person: improving all my knowledge, experiencing and acquiring different viewpoints of the public health systems and pharmaceutical realities different from other countries than mine. I suggest all pharmacy students to accept this challenge!

Andrea de Sousa (Portugal) IPSF Secretariat PO Box 84200, 2508 AE Den Haag, The Netherlands Interested in sending an article to IPSF Newsletter? Please send your article and photos to publications@ipsf.org If you have any queries, do not hesitate to contact us at ipsf@ipsf.org

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The Student Exchange Programme of Portugal is in high demand. I tried hard to keep this opportunity, perhaps the only one in my life. As the first Taiwanese pharmacy student to apply for SEP in Portugal, I struggled with complicated procedures, including international grants and application in PSA-Taiwan. Since Portugal is far away from my country, I could hardly find people who know the condition of Portugal. I also spent a lot of time persuading my parents to approve of my trip. Finally, I received an email from the LEO of Coimbra, Sara, and got the financial support from my school. More importantly, after long-term communication, my parents agreed with my decision to go. During the internship in the Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Technology (University of Coimbra), I was lucky to work with nine local students under the direction of Professor Olga. This experience made me understand the true campus lives of Coimbra pharmacy students, which was very different from gathering with some international students. I attened a formal course in the Pharmacy Faculty, so the training was strongly organized. Professor Olga was amazingly patient helping students. She even checked every page of all of the learners’ power points before we had formal presentations. In this project, I learned how to run the nano-particle process and how to present a science paper in English. Moreover, I really enjoyed the Portuguese lifestyle, living in a student residence and sharing amazing adventures with about twenty girls. I had carefree, enjoyable evenings, which were different from Taiwanese students’ hectic ones. Yes, we all need to slow down, we all need to sit down, try to listen to our own minds, and try to feel the breath of time. As soon as I arrived at the bus station in Coimbra, Sara picked me up and greeted me by kissing my cheeks. The way in which people greet each other is different from my country. However, I adjusted to their culture without any difficulty. I even fell in love with traditional snacks! I really appreciate Andrea de Sousa and Sara Rito. Without Andrea’s help, I would never have discovered any information on this Programme. Being the Local Exchange Office in that period, Sara was extremely competent. I received even better courses than at my school, which gave me a positive impression of Portuguese SEP. I visited pharmacy factories and better pharmacies after telling the true feeling about the placement. She dealt with serious problems very well, though they may have come by accident. I appreciate the culture, the lifestyle, and the food. I also enjoyed travelling to a variety of places, which included University of Lisboa, where I met their CP, Marta Soares and ex-CP, Pedro Lucas, who arranged many special activities for me. I appreciated friendly residents and the most beautiful blue sky in Portugal. The only thing that I regret was that I failed to learn the language. Indeed, I used English all the time. To make up for this loss, I am learning Portuguese now. Agora, estudo português e gostava de ir Coimbra outra vez! My SEP in Portugal had a happy ending, but my love to this country will keep growing and never ever be ended! Wan-Ting Hsu (Contact Person, PSA – Taiwan)

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I once saw pictures of Iceland in a magazine., and immediately I was amazed and I decided that I will go there one day. So when I found Iceland on the list of the countries where you can go for IPSF exchange, it was a simple decision for me. The IPSF Student Exchange Programme was a great opportunity for me to gain a lot of valuable experiences in my professional life and, as well as realizing my dream of staying a month in Iceland.

Work I worked in a community pharmacy which belongs to one of the biggest pharmacy chains in Iceland. My boss was a very nice person with a lot of patience what was really needed especially when I tried to communicate in Icelandic. After some time, I learnt to write most of the words on prescriptions but I couldn’t say anything more apart from “thank you” and “good day“. I’ve wanted to learn to speak some Icelandic but I found it impossible even to pronounce the names of people I met. Fortunately for me all Icelandic people can speak English. Anyway, because I couldn’t talk to the patients, my work in the community pharmacy consisted of doing jobs in the back of the pharmacy. However, all the pharmacists informed me about anything that may interest me and answered all my questions so I got a really good image of Icelandic pharmacy. My boss also took me all around Reykjavik to see others pharmacies. I was surprised that there is a “drive in” pharmacy - but I would have to say that it would never work quite like McDonalds! My boss also arranged for me to visit a dispensing company where there is a robot in the pharmacy – this really opened my eyes and it’s great to see how smart a machine could be. I also spent a great day in a hospital pharmacy. Seeing the work of clinical pharmacist made me to feel how important it is when doctors and pharmacists work together. I visited department where chemotherapy drugs are made and surprisingly, they also allowed me to prepare some of the preparations in the chemotherapy sterile room..

People and fun I lived with the Icelandic Student Exchange Officer (SEO)’s family. I received great care, had my own room, computer and food from the best cooks I have ever met (sorry mum!) and enough freedom. I experienced how the Icelandic live and the girls (SEO and her sister) too me to some Icelandic parties. I saw how the young people entertained themselves and they also make the most out of summer – probably because nights are very long in winter. You can see them every Friday night down town not only dancing in clubs, but also standing outside meeting each other and chatting . In general, people in Iceland, even though they are a bit more reserved then Slovak people, are very polite and helpful.

Country When my plane was landed, I saw just a flat brown land with one road and nothing else. It looked like the moon - no grass, no threes, no houses, no people, nothing! The only idea in my head at that time was “Where am I going to ??” However, on my way to Reykjavik I saw the most beautiful and also the longest sunset ever. This is when I said to myself “This is not bad ”! And after I first went out into the nature, I knew that the Icelandic landscape was the most beautiful place I have ever seen - the Icelandic nature is full of unbelievable natural marvels, full of opposites. Even things you would say are ugly were amazing, because you cannot see it anywhere else. Iceland as a country is completely different from any other country I have been to and the pharmacy is totally different from the Slovak one but it is also very similar in other ways. I really enjoyed seeing and trying new things that I had never seen before. I got much more than what I expected, thank you very much for giving me this once in a lifetime experience! Thanks for that!!! Zuzana Duliakova (Pharmacy student, SPSA, Slovakia)

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In the land of the pharaohs, pharmacy is king. You may think that statement is crazy, but for those who have travelled to Egypt, it is no exaggeration. This past summer I completed a two-month student exchange program in Alexandria, Egypt. Why on Earth did I choose the desert in the hottest months of the year, you ask? The answer is simple: it was the most exotic place I could think of where I’ve never been to and know basically nothing about. My summer of backpacking/exchange took me on a whirlwind tour of five countries around the Mediterranean and North Africa and produced a treasure trove of memories, experiences, and new friends that I will never forget: I slept under the stars on the deck of a Greek island ferry, had a relaxing shisha (hookah) smoking party with students in a Turkish reggae bar, hitchhiked the ancient ruins of Carthage in Tunisia, and lost myself in the bazaars and leather tanneries of Morocco. When imagining what Egypt is like, inevitably one conjures up visions of the endless desert and the great pyramids that arise like islands in the sea. As I was desperately chugging countless bottles of water while gazing up at the prodigious Great Pyramid of Giza, I could not help but wonder if the Egyptians were capable of providing comprehensive pharmaceutical care to their population. And then, reality struck me: without a doubt they could. In Alexandria I worked in a community pharmacy that was more than three quarters of a century old. However despite its age, the practicing pharmacists demonstrated a level of knowledge and professionalism that impressed me greatly. Though there were no computers, no labels stickers, and child-proof bottles, ideas such as proper patient counselling, identifying drug interactions and consideration of patient compliance still persisted. All other matters were merely subtle differences in how they practiced from day-to-day. Pharmacies in developing countries have long been associated with fantastic stories of prescription-free medications, yet I slowly began to realise that an informal system of trust and responsibility does exist. Community pharmacists in Egypt have a great deal of burden in their practices. On the financial side, Alexandria graduates 2,000 pharmacists per year to flood the countless number of pharmacies around. A law that requires a minimum of 100m between pharmacies translated to 4 adjacent competitors in each direction, not to mention pharmacists graduating from other areas. On the professional side, the majority of the local population survives on $10 CND a month, meaning that instead of visiting doctors, the first and final line of contact between patients and a medical care professional was the pharmacist. Diagnosing, prescribing, and dispensing were all part of the job description. For people with money, however, it was quite common to visit the personal clinic of a renowned specialist for illnesses. At the pharmacy where I worked, Dr. Mustafa and his son, Ahmed, who also recently graduated from pharmacy, impressed me with their diverse and extensive knowledge. Although it’s true that antibiotics do not require a prescription, neither does refilling medications, even narcotics. Refills were all done at the discretion of the pharmacist. Having personally seen the responsibility they felt towards their position, I am cautiously reassured that their pharmacy system may not be as wild as some people may imagine it to be. Aside from the work, I also had plenty of fun in Egypt. We took trips to Cairo to ride camels around the sphinx and the pyramids, saw the royal mummies in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, relaxed on a private beach next to a clear blue sea, and visited the new and modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina (the ancient library and lighthouse fell after multiple earthquakes). We also strolled through many bazaars that contained our pick of the freshest fruits and vegetables (mangos for $1/kilo), baskets full of neatly pyramid-shaped aromatic spices ranging from anise to saffron, live chicken, rabbits, ducks, and hacksaw swinging butchers who did not hesitate to use bug spray directly on the flycovered carcasses hooked in front of his stall bathing in forty degree heat. Everyone we met was a character and every place we visited had its own. A typical relaxing day in Alexandria would find me getting up at noon (normal waking hours in Egypt were noon to 3 p.m.), strolling along waterfront pathway entwined between the thunderous Mediterranean and the jigsaw traffic of the sea road, to my favourite local hangout. In July, I made friends with students from France, India, Lithuania, and Hungary, and August saw more arrive from Poland and Switzerland as well. In our short time together, we had grown closer through our experiences, shared our different cultural backgrounds, and forged new friendships that will continue long after we all return home. I will miss every one of them, and I hope that I will see them again in the future. Vincent Ho (Local IPSF Representative at University of Toronto, CAPSI, Canada)

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Newsletter 65 - SEP