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Being an Aberystwyth CARER student

Being part of CARER this year has been quite the adventure. When I was dragged to the lecture advertising it by Callum and Alice, I was initially very sceptical. Why give up the life I loved in Cardiff to go somewhere I’ve never been before, where I know no one? Yet, as I closed my laptop lid and actually began listening to what Francis Gerrard had to say, I became more intrigued. Fast forward to now, where I am sitting in my gorgeous suburban garden, in the sunshine with the birds singing away, my supposed ‘lockdown location’, boy am I glad I started listening.

I joined CARER because I thought it would be an investment in my learning. A sort of deliberate self-sabotage of my social life, or so I thought. A year to really knuckle down and give myself the best head start for fourth year ISCEs, particularly as the second-year ones alone scared me enough. I wanted to build my confidence with patients, become more proactive in my learning, and really to just throw myself in at the deep end. Having found myself getting side-tracked in Year 2 by all the fun opportunities in Cardiff outside work life, I knew this was a way to refocus on what I am really here for and why I came to Medical School.

And most of the above stands true. This year has been a huge wake up call for me as to what it looks like transitioning the knowledge we’ve been taught through lectures and tutorials (that at times seemed merely an abstract concept I needed to cram for S2…) towards a human being who is sat in front of you asking why their urine is frothy or what this lump is on their skin. Especially when your GP is sat comfortably in the next room leaving you to it.

Yet, I personally have found the increased responsibility- and at times expectation- really helpful in order to spur me on in my independent learning. I now WANT to know things, so that when they face me in clinic I can tackle them, and can direct my questions in the history accordingly to come up with some sort of idea for management (even if it is nowhere near correct).

I am able to present my findings to one of the GPs- who can then either agree and allow me to prescribe the appropriate medication or write the needed referral letter, for example, or in fact tell me very kindly if I have gone down the wrong path completely and then re-direct me. Now is the time to make mistakes! I have learnt more this year from the discussions I have had with the GPs as to why I thought it was X, and how it is instead Y for these various reasons. Having the freedom to make these mistakes on my own, without another student jumping in and immediately making the correct diagnosis before you have even processed the information, has been exceedingly beneficial for me. Therefore, I would highly encourage anyone who thinks they might benefit from this more one-to-one teaching to seriously consider applying for the CARER programme.

Nonetheless, I can also inform you that it will not be the death of your social life! I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Aberystwyth University Netball Team (yes there is a university here, and yes, it is a normal one; shock).  Along with my housemate, somehow our attendance to socials has been greater this year than the last two combined- although for any lecturers reading this not at the detriment of our studies of course! In addition, I have been able to get to know a lot of students through the church I attend here too, and my involvement with the church has really helped me feel embedded in the community. Fran, Emanuele and I all took part in the Christmas Light Switch on parade through these connections, and I must say no one in Aberystwyth will forget the giant shark they saw marching down the high street (okay they probably will… but still). We have all felt incredibly welcomed by the students and community here and, as cheesy as it sounds, have made friends for life. I now even have a friend who regularly brings round baked goods for me- result! I’m hoping that for next year she delivers to Cardiff too.

As much as I still love Cardiff and everything I have there, it is going to be much harder than I thought it would be to leave the beautiful setting of Aberystwyth. It will be a shock leaving the rolling hills that are a two-minute walk from my house, and the gorgeous beach that I can escape to the second the sun comes out to watch the starlings dance. Nevertheless, it will just make me appreciate how lucky I am that on that rainy day in Cardiff when I didn’t want to sit in the library by myself, I went to the lecture on CARER, put my application in, and got to escape to the country.

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