This summer should have seen University of Bedfordshire graduates celebrating their completed studies in the grounds of the Putteridge Bury campus, but Covid19 has disrupted this greatly anticipated event.
However, throughout lockdown Bedfordshire’s final year students have stayed focused and resilient in light of the unpredictable situation, with many completing their studies alongside learning new skills, volunteering and helping others.
30th July marks this year’s National Graduates Day campaign by Universities UK – an annual event which celebrates graduate achievements. And this year will be no different.
Across social media, the University has been re-sharing encouraging messages and photos of the Class of 2020 who have been celebrating and acknowledging their successes safely at home (minus their mortar boards!).
A handful of final-year University of Bedfordshire students have spoken about their home-learning experiences and what their plans are now that they’ve progressed from students to alumni…
Hannah Morgan – BSc Paramedic science
Studying at home has been challenging. Being in lockdown didn't leave much option other than to get on top of my assignments and focus on my professional development ready for deployment back into placement. It did also mean I could spend time with my family which had been often sacrificed due to placement commitments.
After not being able to work frontline with the University or with ambulance service I chose to go back to work as a carer in a nursing home specialising in dementia and end of life care. I knew how difficult it would be for families who were unable to see their loved ones in the home, so I chose to put my skills and experience to good use and support staff who are continuously overworked and underfunded whilst providing support to residents.
I also work for a patient transport service in London, taking patients in for regular appointments or transferring critically unwell patients to other hospitals with a critical care team or with close monitoring. This has been a great experience ahead of going back to work on the frontline.
Before the pandemic struck, my plans initially were to work within the ambulance trust where I did my training. However, since lockdown I have been considering moving to Northern Ireland to work with the ambulance service there with my boyfriend (also a paramedic – we actually met at university). We have discussed using our medical experience abroad and volunteering in humanitarian crisis locations where people are in desperate need of medical care.
The pandemic has made me realise how much I love to learn. Education and professional development are two things I am very passionate about. I am considering doing further qualifications in prescribing and then potentially a Masters in End of Life care, this is one of my biggest passions and would love to implement further service improvement as my career progresses.
Amanda Davies – BA Child & Adolescent Studies
I have found studying at home a little challenging at times due to having three children. Usually I would study while they were at school or college but, due to lockdown, they have been at home too. However, the upside to studying at home is that I could do it in my own time. For example, I could watch recorded lectures at a time that suited me which made it a little easier to fit my studies around my home life.
As well as a student, I am a Learning Support Assistant in a local middle school, so between working, studying and home-schooling my own children, I haven’t had much time to do much else. However, supporting children of key workers at school during lockdown has been rewarding as it meant their parents could continue to work on the frontline during the pandemic.
I had originally planned to end my studies this year with a view to finding a pastoral or safeguarding role in a school setting. However, my dissertation on juvenile knife crime has given me a real insight into the youth justice system. Therefore, I have now decided to undertake a masters in Criminology at the University of Bedfordshire in October to enable my personal development.
For me, the pandemic has highlighted just how many vulnerable children there are in this country. Seeing news articles regarding free school meals being delivered to homes and the increased need for outlets for vulnerable children in these unprecedented times, it’s really opened my eyes to the need for support outside the school setting. Therefore, I am now considering applying to be part of the government’s Step Up To Social Work programme next year.
Michael Alawaye – BSc Computer Security & Forensics
Due to health conditions, I stayed home during lockdown to ensure everyone around me and I were safe from the virus, maintaining shielding rules.
Studying at home was a fascinating experience. I saved a lot of time on little things, like having to dress up and walk to campus, which gave me more time to complete my work. However, lockdown rules did impact my degree work due to lack of access to human ‘testers’ and adequate feedback, which meant I had to change my final project plans. I also missed having physical access to the library for extra computer access.
I’ve now started my role as Student President of Beds SU. I want to ensure that the union provides the best opportunities for new and returning students – it’s important that they gain more than just a degree at the University.
After my role with Beds SU I plan to stay on at Bedfordshire and achieve a PhD researching cyber security and cyber fraud.
Rianna Price - MA Research in Sport
My masters degree came to an end early on in the pandemic but during lockdown I have been co-writing a journal to summarise my results for publication. The benefits of studying from home was the comfort of being in my own space but it did take some getting used too. I also struggled sometimes to stay motivated as I missed the personal interaction of my peers.
During lockdown I have taken part in different digital courses which helped me to use online tools effectively. I also ran programmes for other students via Zoom, supporting them with their dissertations.
Before the pandemic, my original career plan when I finished my masters was to start a work placement with the University to become a lecturer. However the pandemic has hindered this opportunity and my lecturers are still trying to adapt to the ‘new normal’ themselves.
I’m still considering a PhD. The pandemic has really inspired me to look at change and how we, as students, adapt to change.
Rozanna 'Rozey' Piddington – BA Education Studies
Studying at home has been a challenge with three children also being home schooled – it was hard to find time to read and put my thoughts in order. However, it did have benefits as I love being around my children and working with them, encouraging them to learn, and we got into a good routine in the end, particularly as they were seeing me work too.
During lockdown I have been writing skills sessions for Greenhouse Mentoring and a new course called mini-skills to support mentees in a smaller group. Once the mini-skills course was planned, I began running the sessions for this Luton-based organisation on a weekly basis.
Once I had completed my university work, I also undertook some short courses and CPD, such as Youth Mental First Aid, Understanding Autism, Paediatric first aid and CBT training.
My plans upon graduation remain the same – staying on at Bedfordshire to complete a Masters conversion in Psychology to further enhance my skills and practice.
During lockdown I also applied for some part-time work – Zoom interviews were really different! I now have some training lined up with the Charity Prison Advice and Care Trust as a Play Coordinator, which I’m really looking forward to.
Alessandro Manea – BSc Business Studies (International)
It was an ‘extreme’ final year for me. Between finishing my studies and starting my Exec position with Beds SU I had planned to go travelling and visit my family back home but the pandemic prevented this from happening.
Procrastination and studying from home don't fit together and it was tricky for me to adapt at the beginning. However, engaging with my studies from home has helped me realise that I needed to make changes to the way I work. In the end, I was able to get a really good grade overall!
I think a lot of people who have not had the opportunity to stay at home, as their job is considered a necessity, are considering a career shift. Covid19 made me realise that I should never stop working on myself and raising my own value. For the moment, fighting for our students is a good way of making a difference in the community.
Rachael Scillitoe – MSc Social Work
The pandemic and subsequent lockdown began when I was on my final masters placement in an older persons’ community mental health team. I was fortunate enough to have excellent support, both from the university and the team, to continue the placement and have now finished and secured a permanent job with them.
The team support each other every day both professionally and also personally; we check in and out daily on an app to update each other on our physical and emotional well-being and that of our families health to make sure we safeguard our supported people and ourselves to keep the risk of spreading the virus to a minimum.
The whole team including myself worked remotely from home. I went into the office 1-2 days per week for the duty rota. I had PPE+ training to be able to carry out the most necessary visits in the community and all other work including presenting at panel was done from home via telephone, email and video conference. I felt a valued member of the team and my onsite supervisor, manager and Practice educator ensured my safety and health both physically and emotionally throughout my 109 days of placement.
After graduating I had originally planned to continue as a social worker and my experience during the pandemic did inspire me to look at NHS employment. It’s definitely contributed to my professional development and resilience.
Take a look at the Our Graduates section of our website to see our past student's experiences of studying at the University of Bedfordshire & about their journeys after leaving university: https://t.co/BtZtUFLdtq #UniofBeds #Graduates #NationalGraduatesDay pic.twitter.com/8piM8zAqBf— uniofbeds (@uniofbeds) July 30, 2020
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