Although I have been home for several days now from Chile, I still find myself trying to organize my thoughts from WFOT 2010. In short, it was an amazing experience. In an effort to be succinct, I have tried to reflect on the main points that continue to resonate with me.
1. Chile is beautiful! This was my first trip to South America. Santiago is a very large city and our limited time only allowed us to explore a portion of it. It had a rich and interesting history and the architecture is beautiful. We encountered more language barriers than we expected. Being from South Texas, we anticipated that our limited Spanish would prove to be more beneficial than I think it was! However, our functioning in an environment where English is not the primary language did improve over the time we were there, and it definitely provides evidence of how language immersion programs are the way to learn! Nearly everyone we encountered was extremely friendly. I was impressed by the national pride exhibited by most as it was readily apparent that we were visitors. On several occasions we were asked by others if we were enjoying their country and if we thought their country was beautiful. Given our experiences, it was easy to say yes! Furthermore, the Congress planning team – Team Chile – did an excellent job of creating a dynamic program!
2. The global world of OT is a vibrant and fascinating one! This was my first WFOT Congress and I am not sure that I can adequately communicate the feeling of being there! It was a mixture of awe and pride to be one of the nearly 2000 OTs from over 50 countries in attendance. To hear of the fascinating work, research, and education that is being carried out by OTs from across the world was such a priceless opportunity. The emphasis on human rights, community issues, and societal issues by international OTs expanded my thinking in so many ways. I learned a tremendous amount from talking to others, but I truly learned the most from listening.
3. The world of OT is both large and small! While service delivery issues vary across the world and impact aspects of practice, the fundamental values held by the OT profession are quickly evident, regardless of where or how someone practices. The core belief of the needs and the rights for people to engage in occupations that are meaningful to them and to participate in their communities is truly what binds us together, regardless of country or practice setting.
4. There are exciting opportunities to collaborate with international colleagues! It was so wonderful to meet colleagues from across the world and discuss common interests. With the assistance of technology, it is conceivable to think that the initial contacts made during Congress will develop into collaborative relationships!
Now I only wish that WFOT 2014 to be held in Yokohama, Japan didn’t feel so far in the future!