How to Build Your Network in Sweden

By Doug Scanlon | Fall 2015

Students know that networking is essential to a successful career, but how do you build your network abroad? Sam Parziale ’16 discovered there are several steps.

First, you will need to be a senior recreation management major with at least a 3.0 grade point average at Springfield College to be eligible for the Joseph Williams Therapeutic Recreation Services Scholarship Fund. Then you need to be awarded said fund, as Parziale was when she was accepted to Springfield College.

It helps if you call Mr. Williams, the scholarship’s namesake, and write him a letter to thank him because then he might make a trip to campus to meet you. If you’re as fortunate as Sam was this summer, Mr. Williams will fund a trip for you to travel to his hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, where you’ll observe the therapeutic recreation services of several children’s hospitals and a rehabilitation center.

Maybe you will learn that, unlike the United States, Sweden does not have child life specialists. They have special education teachers who perform the same essential work. You will see the enormous sensory rooms designed for children who need a break from the stress of their medical procedures. You will see the preparation rooms, which have miniature, doll-like versions of everything from MRI machines to stethoscopes for the child to play with. That way, when their medical procedure begins, the real versions of these instruments seem less threatening.

If you’re lucky, you will also have time for sightseeing. Maybe you will visit Copenhagen and see the Queen’s palace. You will see The Little Mermaid statue and learn how her story originated right there. You might travel to Skagen, the most northern part of Denmark, and witness the “two seas” phenomenon—where the Skagerrak and Kattegat seas meet. You will feel the current from both bodies of water simultaneously as you wade out on the sandbar. Maybe the two seas converging will remind you of the dichotomy between United States culture and Swedish culture and how this is a watershed moment that could alter the trajectory of your life’s course. Or maybe it’s just a really nice view.

If you play your cards right, you will have fika with the head of the therapeutic recreation department at each hospital. You will learn what fika means (it’s a work break with tea and pastries, similar to tea time in Britain). During fika, you will discover how much these four women you’ve met love their jobs, and it will excite you and make you realize you are in the right field. You will exchange business cards. Your once-benign interest in international studies will solidify into a career goal.

You will come home and say things like, “I have a network in Sweden now. I have four different hospitals that I’m welcomed to return to at any time.” You will realize how much you love therapeutic recreation and working with adults. You will begin an internship at Hartford Hospital in the therapeutic recreation services department. You will talk about opening your own facility in a different country someday. Mostly, you will feel grateful to attend a college whose alumni care so deeply about its students that they will fly them halfway around the world to enrich their learning experience.