Guest posts

Then until now…

You would not believe that that’s the same plant, well it is!

66 days ago I arrived in the country of Malta on my final occupational therapy work placement. I am a final year Cardiff University student completing a BSc Hons in Occupational therapy and I had the opportunity to complete my last placement on the Erasmus scheme. I have been recording my time in Malta on an online blog and using the plant as a metaphor for my growth and development since I have been here.

Where did it all start? I was volunteering at a day centre for adults with multiple sclerosis and chatting to one of the members. He is a wheelchair user and was telling me all about his chair and that his occupational therapist had got it for him. “Occupational therapist,” what’s that I said? He then explained that his OT was the person that made alterations to his home so that he could independent and got him the adapted car and wheelchair so that he could do all the things he wants and needs to do. He was telling me the story of how this person had changed his life, and I had a sudden, ‘epiphany,’ I thought, I want to be that person that changes peoples lives.

So there I was, UCAS, personal statements, applying for university and I saw a variety of programs that took my interest. The Cardiff program, looked especially pleasing because they used something called ‘problem based learning,’ at the time I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant but it was the career I knew I wanted and the ‘no exams,’ approach was particularly appealing.

I later found out that problem-based learning is a method of teaching, in which you work in small groups of 6-8 people, you are given a problem/case study and you have to devise a plan on how to resolve that problem using team working skills, research skills, thinking ‘outside of the box’ and be able to collate all the information into a manageable handout/presentation afterwards. At times this way of learning had its challenges, especially because I find reading quite difficult, but the supportive relationships you build with your peers becomes invaluable and will turn into life-long friendships.

Following this, I completed four placements, one of which I am finishing now. Each placement gave me more responsibility as an occupational therapist and each time I learnt more about myself and the profession. I have worked with older adults, young newly diagnosed adults, adults with severe mental health difficulties and now in Malta I am working with children with sensory difficulties and physical disabilities in a new country!

My time in Cardiff has been incredible, my home town in London meant coming to university was a big move, with my family and my boyfriend at home it has been a challenge but when you meet the friends you do on a course you all love and the tutors that are so supportive you feel like part of a Cardiff University family. Throughout my time I have completed lots of extra activities like trying to set up a society, learning sign language, going skiing for the day, becoming a first aider and even watching one of my special peers carry the Olympic torch.

Now on the penultimate part of my journey through Cardiff I chose to go on the Erasmus scheme to broaden my knowledge of the occupational therapy profession outside of the United Kingdom. I felt this would help me to become a holistic (wholesome) therapist and help me grow in self-confidence, being away from home for a long period of time. The 2 months out of 3 so far, have been the biggest challenge in my training, having never had any experience of working with children as an occupational therapist, there was a lot I had to learn before I arrived and I am still learning new things every-day. Despite being a challenge, this placement has been a complete changing point in my life. I will remember these 3 months for the rest of my life and the rest of my career as an occupational therapist. Indulging in a new culture and within a new area of practice has been a life changing experience.

Next step is back to Cardiff University for 5 months, finalise my research paper and then off into the big wide world and start a job as an Occupational Therapist.

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