Interview with occupational therapy graduate and PhD student, Lucy Whitehall
Lucy Whitehall, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, graduated with a BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy from QMU in 2017. She is undertaking a PhD in the Occupational Therapy & Arts Therapies Division with Firefly Research at QMU.
Lucy was set on the idea of studying at QMU from about the age of 16, before she had properly looked into studying occupational therapy. She had a friend who studied at QMU before her and remembers visiting him and falling in love with how open and friendly the QMU campus is. Being so close to Edinburgh was a huge selling point for Lucy too.
Lucy’s desire to study occupational therapy came from a part time job she had as a teenager. From 2010-2013, she was employed as a personal assistant for a young boy with autism and learning disabilities. During her three-year employment, Lucy developed an understanding of the role of occupational therapists, as they worked with him to improve his independence in self-care tasks and his engagement in school-related tasks.
Why did you chose to study occupational therapy at QMU?
“I was set on studying at QMU a while before I was old enough to go, but it was important for me that my parents would be happy leaving me here if I was accepted on to the course. There are two aspects of the open day that still stand out to me, including the modern, en-suite student rooms in the halls of residence.
“The second was a comment made by a lecturer about the occupational therapy course – “don’t study at QMU if you want to be able to sit at the back of lectures and not be noticed”. My course was made up of about 40 people, so you really could not go unnoticed in classes."
What stands out for you about studying occupational therapy at QMU?
“Lecturers knew who each of us were and we were all continually supported throughout our studies.
“Before starting my degree, I was insistent that whatever my passion was at the end of it, it was not going to be the care of older people. Having taken part in four placements throughout my degree, two of which were primarily working with older people, I can safely say that I was wrong. Studying occupational therapy at QMU broadened my horizons, and in my fourth year, I completed my dissertation on end-of-life care. I ended up enjoying my dissertation so much that I applied to complete my PhD at QMU with Firefly research – yet another thing I would have been insistent that I would never do 4 years ago!
“Now I’m a member of staff at QMU, I continue to see how much of a blessing the friendly size of my occupational therapy cohort was as I constantly see my old lecturers around, with them consistently encouraging me."
Were you a member of any clubs or societies during your time at QMU?
“During my time as an undergraduate student at QMU, I was a member of two societies, serving on the committee of both – the Queen Margaret University Christian Union and The Occupational Therapy Society, which was set up during my third year.
“As a member of The Occupational Therapy Society, I was part of a committee that arranged the SOTLS (Student Occupational Therapy Links Scotland) conference for 2016/17. SOTLS is a one-day occupational therapy conference run for and by occupational therapy students in Scotland. It was an amazing day, and from the feedback we received, I think the students who attended felt the same! We had three keynote talks, and 16 different workshops that attendees could choose to attend, provided by visiting speakers from all over the world, including America and Canada. We were the first SOTLS committee to open up the conference to English students and we had many attend. Being part of the SOTLS committee is one of my highlights of studying at QMU, it also happens to look great on my CV now!”
What are your top tips for future students looking to study occupational therapy at QMU?
“My ‘top tip’ for making the most of being a student at QMU is to make the most of the opportunities that you are given! I definitely found that as much as I loved my course, being a student was much more than grades to me – you will only be an (undergraduate) student once; so throw yourself into it!”
What are your plans after completing you PhD at QMU?
"I love Edinburgh so much that I want to settle here and continue my career in occupational therapy."
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