We spoke to Brigitte Toppin a Cardiff University Alumni. Brigitte studied Optometry at Cardiff University. She told us about the struggles she faced as a International student and how she has “forged close ties” to both friends and lecturers on her course.
1. Hello, what do you study at Cardiff University?
I study Optometry, a profession that involves testing vision and ocular health as well as prescribing spectacles and contact lenses.
2. Why did you decide to study that subject?
I’ve always taken an interest in science, particularly human biology, and I’ve always enjoyed helping people. At the age of seventeen I started to consider which career would be right for me. I had a “eureka” moment after a trip to the opticians which peaked my interest and I applied for a job in a factory that made intraocular lenses that summer. I haven’t looked back since.
3. How would you describe your experience at Cardiff University?
My experience has been life changing. Not only have I made wonderful friends who are now like family, but I have also forged close ties to many of my lecturers as a result of the intimacy of my program. I think this is so important in a university setting. The university also provided many opportunities for students to network themselves in the industry, which has allowed job opportunities and resources to arise so I can feel equipped for the profession that lies ahead.
4. Did you face any difficulties being an international student?
Up to now I still have trouble understanding a strong Welsh accent! I also had to get used to the time difference, not only because of the jet lag, which, for the first couple of months made it very difficult to get a good night sleep, but also because it made it difficult to stay in touch with my loved ones in a different time zone. When your support system is so far away, it makes it that much harder to stay focused and goal-oriented.
5. Did you become involved in any societies or student media during your time here?
With my program came a huge workload that kept me very busy and discouraged me from joining any societies for fear of getting distracted, but I was eventually convinced to join OPSOC (the Optometry Student Society) by the president during my first year. This helped me to make friends and connections from the outset of my degree.
6. What has been the best moments you have had during your time here?
I’ll never forget seeing my very first patient during my time in the student clinic, it was a pivotal point where I finally realized how far I had come!
I will also hold the OPSOC socials near and dear to my heart, they have left me with some amazing memories, photos and a massive collection of fancy dress.
7. How are you feeling about graduating?
I’ve been studying for a long time, so I’m very excited to start working and getting experience in the field. But at the same time I’m truly going to miss Cardiff University and the people in my program that I have spent the last three years of my life with. There is camaraderie in this program that many other universities don’t have and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. I hope to stay in touch with them.
8. What are your plans for after graduation?
I will be starting a full time job as a Pre-Registration Optometrist with a leading high street optician!
9. What advice would you give to first years coming to Cardiff University?
Throw yourself into University life head-first! And if you hurt your eyes in the process, then Cardiff’s School of Optometry offers free sight tests!