The purpose of this paper is to present elements of a discussion on the discipline of nursing that arose from a student–faculty exchange programme, as a reflection of the experiences the students and faculty had during the 3-year exchange. It suggests that the globalization of health and the international migration of nurses might prove to be an opportunity for nurses to learn more about nursing practice. It became apparent to the participants that the phenomenon of nursing, although understood by them all, was not easy to describe, and words used in Swedish, Finnish or British or American English were often not easy to interpret or explain. These reflections were noted by the authors when the group came together to plan the programme and design experiences for the participants. We were concerned how nursing could contribute to health-care improvement globally if it wasn't universally understood within the four countries concerned.