Aussie draws the short strawGuest Blog by Samantha Fien, visiting PhD student.

During my exchange someone mentioned “Geez, you drew the short straw coming to Ireland if you are from Australia.” I thought “oh, how wrong could you be”. Yes, Australia is amazing but so is Ireland! This was my first time in Ireland and it did not disappoint! I had amazing weather, I made life long friends, expanded my knowledge and research skills and will continue to keep in contact with ARCH for many years to come.

Whilst on my exchange I had the opportunity to be involved with ARCH and the research team. It’s taken me a couple of weeks to think and reflect on my experience more so because it still doesn’t seem real that I had the opportunity to come to Ireland and get involved with so many research studies.  After much deliberation I have finally settled on the following three words to describe the time I spent in ARCH:



The ARCH centre is diverse in so many ways. The context of the studies ranged from community-dwelling dementia patients to nursing home residents to general practitioners, all involving connected health. They seem to cover quite a lot but manage it all really well. There was always something for me to do or be involved with, which I loved!

The methodological approaches used included both qualitative and quantitative research. I was able to sit in on a workshop about Photo Voice, which was something I had never heard of before (the organisation and research methodology) and I found both to be extraordinary. The lengths that went into planning and organising events and studies were a great insight to see first hand.

The team itself were researchers from all over the world. They all had different backgrounds and passions but came together for the common objectives and research aims that were currently being investigated at the time. I was so eager to learn and expand my knowledge on all perspectives of research and this really was the best place to do so. I was never bored and enjoyed coming into the ARCH every day.aussie1


“Ah grand”, “That’s grand!” – Frankly, I had to add this word into my blog as it’s my favourite Irish word that was used as many times during the day as Australians would use “mate”. Every time I would hear the word, I would just smile and even now it reminds me of Ireland whilst writing this. I do feel the word “grand” (especially when pronounced with a typical Irish accent) describes the atmosphere and culture embedded in ARCH.  The team ensured I was involved in as many opportunities as possible – I was fortunate to go to a number of workshops for different research methodologies. I attended the ARCH Open Day where I was able to meet various health collaborators and gain further knowledge in connected health and the Irish health care system. Overall it was grand!aussie2


The team of researchers I met at ARCH welcomed me with open arms and created an opportunity for myself to see and engage the Irish health care and connected health in community-dwelling, hospitals, nursing homes, health professionals and health organisations.

To put it into context, the term mateship dates back to WW1 and Australian diggers. The Australian culture of mateship is held quite highly as such is a word that is not used every day to describe something. But yet it is perfect for the ARCH team. The team itself were mates and made me feel like part of the team. Nothing was too hard for them and they ensured I was involved in as many things as possible during my stay there.

I put the team in high regards as they asked for my opinion numerous times and actually listened to what I was saying. They weren’t doing this to be nice. They were genuinely interested in what I had to say about what they working on for their projects in connected health. This was major for me because sometimes I question myself and think to myself “who would want to listen or hear what a PhD student has to say” or “she does not have enough experience or knowledge”. And yet I found the complete opposite with ARCH. Not once I questioned myself. I felt comfortable working with the research team and as such I did not feel like I was working, as I found the whole experience to be so enjoyable!

If this experience was “drawing the short straw” well then I would pick the short straw any day of the week. I had an incredible experience whilst at ARCH – the knowledge I have come away with, the network I have created and expanded, the insight into planning a research project and collaborative thinking is second to none! I am truly grateful for the experience and will treasure the opportunity for life.  I am already planning my next trip to Ireland!

I would also like to thank and acknowledge Emerging Researchers in Ageing, CEPAR (ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research), Bond University and University College Dublin for sponsoring me to travel to Ireland and be part of this exchange.aussie3

You can contact Samantha Fien on .


Samantha Fien is a PhD student at Bond University and a member of the Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG).  Her research is examining gait performance and the benefits of exercise in residential aged adults. She has also helped in a number of studies: sarcopenia status in residential aged care adults, tremor training study and Masters Games athletes. Samantha is also a cardiac technician at the Cardiac Centre on the Gold Coast.

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