Hello everyone! My name is Alexia Mitchell and I graduated from Queen Margaret University’s MSc Occupational Therapy (pre-registration) in 2018. After working with children with special needs as a swimming instructor and volunteering at a paediatric occupational therapy clinic, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy. My Scottish roots and strong desire to live abroad led me to QMU.

After graduating from the programme, I returned to Canada in September 2018. While completing the Canadian accreditation process (the Substantial Equivalency Assessment System and National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam), I worked as an emergency supply teacher and educational assistant at an elementary school in Kingston, Ontario. Upon completion of the N.O.T.C.E. in November 2019, I moved back to my hometown of Montreal and started working as an Occupational Therapist at Kiddo Active Paediatric Therapy, a multi-disciplinary private practice.

Enough about me - I would like to congratulate those of you who are starting the programme at QMU! You are about to embark on a life changing journey in an amazing city. 

I wanted to share a few words of advice based on my experience. (Please keep in mind that these are my thoughts and impressions). First, you get out what you put in. What I mean, is that as adult-learners, all the responsibility falls on you. Be organised, self-disciplined and most importantly, the readings, videos, online trainings are at your disposal - complete these learning tasks. Not only will it expose you to different facets of occupational therapy, but you will get more out of the programme than only doing what’s assessed.

Second, I want to mention that the culture of learning on the programme was very different from my undergraduate experience at a Canadian university. My class sizes varied immensely during my undergrad, it was only in my fourth year seminar classes that I had the opportunity to experience small class sizes. Most of my classes had over 50 students in them, up to 500, which did not allow for a lot of group discussions. I strongly believe that the smaller cohort size at QMU was immensely beneficial; my cohort and I had the space and opportunity to discuss with our lecturers, ask questions and challenge ideas in a safe and supportive environment. Also, I found that a lot of emphasis was placed on grades and GPAs, during my undergrad. The MSc OT programme design is organised in such a way that summative assignments account for your final grades; the priority is on the process of learning and developing skills that will be useful while in practice. Once you are a licensed professional in the workplace, the grade you got on your presentation in semester two will not matter. What will? Your ability to present a client to your colleagues in a case conference, how you speak to clients in a client-centred manner and importantly, how you explain Occupational Therapy to others. What I am trying to say is, be sure take a look at the bigger picture once in a while - the programme is designed to prepare you for the realities of your future workplace.

This leads me to my last point, which is to embrace the times of uncertainty and feelings of “not-knowing”. Some of you may be familiar with Problem-Based Learning (PBL). I was not, and it took me some time to get accustomed to this teaching and learning approach. Rather than being lectured or told the information, you are tasked with going to find it out for yourselves. The PBL modalities taught me how to deal with uncertainty, question methods and how to find information. Such skills are incredibly useful to me right now. As a beginning practitioner, there is a lot I need to learn and have to find out for myself. The feeling of ‘not-knowing’ is still present in my daily practice. Thankfully, QMU has taught me the skills to help me deal with this feeling and how to find the answers to my questions.

Most importantly, the two years go by very quickly, so be sure to learn lots, embrace the uncertainty and most importantly, enjoy yourselves!

Alexia Mitchell

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