Hello, I’m Rachel! I have just finished my first year as an Occupational Therapy student at Plymouth University and felt that this would be a great time to reflect on the year and re-visit my favourite memories.
So, the work load can be heavy at times, the images below have been my view for a great part of the past year – revision, reading, writing.. Repeat! However, the sense of achievement, the new skills and knowledge base that I have gained and the overall experience of studying for a degree have contributed enormously to my enjoyment of my studies at Plymouth University.
It certainly helps that university is in such a fantastic location. As I am studying Occupational Therapy, my base (Peninsula Allied Health Centre) is closer to the North of city and in preparation I moved to the area to ease the commute. Being less than 30 minutes from Dartmoor National Park, the beaches and the city are a massive bonus for somebody that loves the outdoors but also enjoys going for cocktails or a coffee every now and then! Getting out into nature is a massive stress relief for me and there is nothing better than getting out for a hike or a paddle in the sea after a day of essay writing.
In addition to the study at university and self-directed learning that we complete – there is also placement! For me, despite initial apprehensions – “where am I going to be placed, how will I afford to move or commute, will I be any good?” I had the most fantastic experience and did not want to leave. Placement can be complicated to manage if you have other commitments, it can be tiring and it can be time consuming – but the experience has been my favourite so far in my degree.
I spent 10 weeks in an Intensive Care Unit, which was roughly an hour’s drive to and from each day. Having a background in learning disabilities and mental health practice, I was a little unsure about spending time in such an acute physical setting. The support that I had from my educator, as well as my allocated tutor at the university, was fantastic and I could not have asked for a better experience. I spent time with some of the most inspirational people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and through reflection, I learnt a lot about myself in to process, supporting my journey to become a qualified Occupational Therapist.
The great thing about studying Occupational Therapy is that the lecturers ‘practice what they teach’. We learn about occupational balance in our lives and the lives of our clients – ensuring that there is an equilibrium between the work, play and self-care tasks in our lives.
During the most stressful times of the degree light hearted (but still educational) workshops are tailored into the programme to ensure that we are maintaining this balance. One of these workshops was during the Christmas period, in which we worked in a team to create a festive outfit for a willing team member, who then displayed the outfit in a catwalk style fashion and the winner won a prize! Our team came first! With the fabulous Christmas Tree design as modelled by the lovely Stacey.
Reaching the end of first year, the opportunities that have been offered to us as a cohort have been vast. What you choose to do with those opportunities are up to you! Myself and a few colleagues on the course, who are now some of my closest friends, chose to take up the offer of a reduced student rate to attend the Royal College of Occupational Therapists annual conference in Birmingham.
We had a fantastic time listening to guest speakers talk with devotion about their area of practice, we attended ‘Brag and Steal’ sessions where practitioners talked about groups or interventions that they found successful which others could take ideas from and we attended Occupational Stations where we could engage in the groups that people ran in practice. And the freebies… so many freebies.
One of the Occupation Stations was called “Get up and go” and was a sensory circuit group run by Laura Smalley and Jamie Lee Nelson. Myself and a colleague, Jade, were so inspired by the session and saw the potential for its benefits in a group of children that we currently support as enablers in the community that we decided to research it further.
This research has developed into a full voluntary summer project which we are currently setting up with the support of Samantha Turner, our first-year Occupational Therapy lead lecturer. We have named our project “Sense-Aware” and you can head to our Twitter @senseaware_sw to find out more information, or if this something that you would like to support you can find our “GoFundMe” account here: https://www.gofundme.com/plymouth-childrens-sensory-group.
I cannot quite believe that all of this has been squeezed into the first year of my degree, the next two years have a lot to live up to and I cannot wait to see what they bring! But for now, let’s just hope for some sunshine for summer break!