June 16, 2016, by Editor

The European Pharmacy Students’ Association Annual Congress 2016 in Helsinki

As this is my first (and possibly my last) blog, I shall introduce myself. My name is Matthew James Brown and I have been a pharmacy student for the last 4 years here at The University of Nottingham. Throughout my time I have been heavily involved with The Pharmacy Society (PharmSoc), acting as President during my final year. This blog is to document my experience on a trip to Helsinki, Finland in April 2016 and I hope you find it an enjoyable read.

My winning entry to the photo competition, which was "Take a picture showing us how you prepare for the congress"

My winning entry to the photo competition, which was “Take a picture showing us how you prepare for the congress”

Having spoken French since the age of 3, languages and other cultures have always been a big part of my life. Since University I have tried my best to intertwine this with my newfound love for pharmacy and increase involvement with other students. The European Pharmaceutical Student’s Association (EPSA) is the body that represents all pharmacy students on the European stage and embodies the perfect culmination of my two driving forces, language and pharmacy! A lucky number of students from the UK are allowed to attend their annual congress each year, including myself this year, and hopefully I can give you a taster of what happened.

I set off on this journey not knowing anyone and I returned with a wealth of new contacts, many of whom became great friends. I touched down in Helsinki a few days before the congress was due to start so that I could get my bearings in the city and hopefully meet some new faces, both of which I accomplished within hours of arriving! Straight away I could tell that this week was going to be a rollercoaster experience as around 17 different nationalities were staying under the same roof at the first hostel and all 350 participants were moving to the same hotel in a day’s time.

“What’s your name and where do you come from?” eased off a little after the first day as we were provided with name badges but that didn’t stop everyone talking amongst ourselves and discussing the topics being showcased at the symposiums and workshops that were running throughout the week. The main mandatory sessions were focussed around drug therapies for special patient groups although I was allowed to attend some unique workshops on health literacy, counselling cancer patients and planning exchanges between other universities as well. In our breaks, everything we had been learning throughout each day came together in a melting pot over lunch and dinner and by the end of the week it felt like I had attended all of the 100+ events hosted at the University.

'Czech' out the 'German' and the 'Brit' exploring Helsinki's cathedral!

‘Czech’ out the ‘German’ and the ‘Brit’ exploring Helsinki’s cathedral!

When workshops were unavailable we had the opportunity to sit in on EPSA’s General Assembly where matters were discussed and the new committee was elected. This gripping experience allowed me to sneak a peak into the political side and hear the different viewpoints of all 34 members that make up EPSA.

All of these different elements of the week would have made me explode if there hadn’t been some time to let our hair down. Fortunately, the amazing reception committee had thought of everything and a differently themed social was put on each night, culminating in a spectacular gala on the final night to showcase awards throughout the week (one of which I won!) to provide a chance to say goodbyes and most importantly to ensure we all stayed in contact ready for the next event!

So without further ado, I hope that my account of this amazing week of mine has led you to at least research EPSA and what they do and hopefully some of you will take it one step further, like I did, and actually attend one of their 4 events throughout the year! Please don’t leave it until your last year like I have, my only regret is that I didn’t attend sooner so I hope to see you all at an EPSA event in the near future!

Matthew James Brown, MPharm4

The British contingent on our final night!

The British contingent on our final night!

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